Holiday Traditions – November

Veterans Day: November 11
Remembrance Day: November 11
American Thanksgiving: November 27

Veterans Day: November 11

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Here rests in honored glory
An American Soldier
Known but to God
– Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

On Monday, November 11, 1918 at 5 a.m., Germany signed the armistice swiftly ending the First World War. As the news spread, people around the world celebrated with impromptu parades and street parties.

The next year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, “a day to be filled with solemn pride”. Each year following, November 11 was observed across the United States by veterans’ parades, public services, and two minutes of silence to honor the dead.

In 1938 the U.S. Congress passed a bill that officially proclaimed November 11 Armistice Day. However, during and after World War II, Veterans’ groups lobbied to make November 11 a date to honor all Americans who had fought in various wars. As a result, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day on May 24, 1954.

On November 11, 1921 at 11 a.m. — the eleventh month, eleventh day, eleventh hour — the body of an American Unknown Soldier was lowered into a white marble sarcophagus at Arlington National Cemetery, which came to be known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In tribute to this symbol of all America’s unknown dead, Americans across the country lowered their heads in a moment of silence and all flags were flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset. These traditions continue on to the present day.

Remembrance Day: November 11

Observed on November 11 in Canada, Remembrance Day honors those Canadians and Americans who served in different worldwide conflicts. Each year on November 11 at 11:00 a.m., Canadians lower their heads in a moment of silence as a tribute to those soldiers who fought in various battles throughout the world. In addition, the mysterious red poppy flower— which widely flourished among the graves of the dead in France and Belgium during the First World War — is worn by Canadians as a symbol of respect and remembrance.

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American Thanksgiving: November 27

Observed on the fourth Thursday in November each year, American Thanksgiving is second only to Christmas Day in scope and celebration. Some cities stage long, elaborate parades: Macy’s New York City Thanksgiving Day Parade, which features giant floats and hundreds of marching bands, has entertained thousands since 1924.

traditions_pumpkin Since the Pilgrims’ first harvest, this holiday continues to be observed at the time of year when New England settlers would slaughter livestock (turkeys and geese were in their prime at this time of year), and stock their cellars with fruit and vegetables (pumpkins, turnips, parsnips, carrots) in preparation for the harsh winter ahead. The last harvest feast meant the last big meal for the season: with winter on the horizon, food would be scarce.

Two themes continue to dominate the Thanksgiving holiday: sports and food. The first Thanksgiving in 1621, lasted for three days and was celebrated by both the Pilgrim settlers and the native peoples who had helped the colony survive their first year. People of both cultures played “stool ball,” a type of croquet game, and competed against one another in races and jumping games. Today, families continue to make Thanksgiving Day an active holiday, with football and bicycle races having replaced the original sporting events.

While the first Thanksgiving celebrated was a success, it was thanks to one Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, that the modern Thanksgiving holiday came to be. For 40 years, Ms. Hale wrote editorials and letters to governors and presidents persuading them to declare a national holiday to show “the purest feelings of patriotism and the deepest emotions of thankfulness.” Her dream was finally realized in 1863, when President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

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