On 11 November 1918, World War I–the horrific conflict everyone hoped would end all wars–ended with the signing of the Armistice in France. Ever since, the millions dead in that conflict and the ones that came before and after have been lovingly remembered on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For weeks leading up to the day, poppy brooches start appearing on lapels–cheap paper ones picked up when you donate some pocket change to the Poppy Appeal, or more permanent ones that are crocheted or enameled and brought out every year. These bright little flowers are not only reminders of the lives lost, but are also the symbol of the British Legion’s annual Remembrance Day fundraiser, which raises money for wounded vets and their families.They hope to raise 42 million pounds this year.
In the U.S., today is celebrated as Veterans’ Day, and while there are some somber activities of remembrance, it seems like a much quieter day than it is here. It’s easier to overlook it, because there seem to be few visual reminders in the days leading up to it. Here in Edinburgh–and elsewhere in the U.K., there’s a Garden of Remembrance. Spreading out from the Scott Memorial on Prince’s Street is row upon row of small wooden crosses studded with a single paper poppy, planted in memory of someone who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The first of these gardens was started at Westminster in 1928; there were only two crosses that year. This year, you’ll find them in Wootton Basset, Belfast, Cardiff, and Newcastle, as well as London and Edinburgh. There’s also one at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, France. Anyone can dedicate a cross to a loved one who died, and include a personal message. It’s a very moving, beautiful, and sobering memorial.
Traditionally, there’s a two-minute silence at 11 a.m. No matter where you are, take a moment to remember the fallen and be thankful for all our veterans have done for us.