Today, I spoke on the phone with some relatives who live in Alberta. I was surprised to hear that they have November 11th off school and work. Though I also live in Canada, this is not the case for me.
One day off work or school on Remembrance Day seemed strange to me at first, but then I recalled reading something about it online. A bill proposing making November a statutory holiday across Canada (currently there are four provinces which do not recognize it) is making its way through the House of Commons.
A benefit of this is that more people would be able to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies if they had the day off of school or work. For people who have had family members die while serving, it is incredibly important to have this day off. I definitely agree that for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to take part in any sort of remembrance, this is the answer.
For example, for people who are adults and don’t do anything at their place of work for this day, then the creation of this statutory holiday would benefit them. But what about those who do take part in Remembrance Day ceremonies at the place they spend their days? If this day was made a statutory holiday, ceremonies that happen at work or school would not happen.
At school, Remembrance day is always recognized. In elementary school we had a big, school-wide assembly. Some students would read from the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, a trumpet player from the band would play ‘Last Post’, and the band would play a few songs. At 11:11 we would observe a minute of silence. In high school, we have a similar assembly. We are encouraged to wear black, and to wear our poppies.
If I didn’t have school on Remembrance day, I don’t know what I would to do remember or pay tribute. A moment of silence is still a moment of silence, whether it be observed by me in school with my peers and school mates, or at home with my family. But the Last Post isn’t the same, played from a Youtube recording instead of from someone live on the trumpet.
In Flanders Fields isn’t the same, read from the internet as opposed to read by my fellow students. It’s still the same poem, I know; but it is the atmosphere in which it is read that I think makes a tremendous difference.
At school during these assemblies, there is a feeling of Remembrance and gratitude that remains for the entire day. If I remembered from my own home, I’m not sure that this same feeling would ensue. Instead of seeing nearly a thousand other people wearing poppies, I would see three.
Sitting beside peers and remembering together is an important and valuable experience. After all, a big part of remembrance is bringing people together while sharing in your gratitude and remembrance. Being able to unite with others, especially from school, on occasions like Remembrance day is, in my opinion, a very valuable experience.
It is strange though, to think that on a day of Remembrance, I still go to math class. I still have lunch with my friends, I still walk home from school with my sister, I still do my homework. On November 11th, 1918, people were not going about their daily lives. They were rejoicing because the war was over. They were grieving for the lives lost. They were praying that such an event would not ever happen again. They were, in their own ways, remembering.
Remembrance day is an important holiday, and one that makes me proud to be Canadian. I think a big part of why I feel this way about it is that I have had positive experiences with my schools remembering together in the past, and it is hard for me to imagine a future where this isn’t the case.
I think people can (and will) remember, regardless of whether or not November 11th is made a Statutory Holiday. However, I can’t help but wonder what would be lost if the nationalization of this statutory holiday was gained. What do you think?