Remembrance Day: If you Forget to Remember, Throw a Party Instead
Remembrance Day. Doesn’t it seem like every year, fewer and fewer people are taking the time to observe the holiday? From what I’ve observed, only a few select groups of people actively engage in the notion of “remembering”. Those connected to the armed forces and police, along with rare individuals sporting a strong moral-compass seem to be the only ones participating beyond a quick head-bow at 11:11 a.m. I’m not here, though, to pass judgment or spread shame but instead, to note that Remembrance Day seems to have become, by-and-large, just a quiet day off from work.
It’s as though a disconnect has occurred in which the solemn nature of the holiday has pushed people away but at the same time, as a result, created subconscious guilt that immobilizes people into doing a whole lot of nothingness instead. After all, if you’re not paying your respects, you better not being having fun, right? But as I said, I’m not passing judgment, rather I’d prefer to make a few suggestions on how to prevent Remembrance Day from losing its meaning:
Make it Personal. Renew your Appreciation for Ceremony.
I have two early memories of Remembrance Day, the first of which is as a five-year old, spending an hour in -20ºC weather rigidly staring at a war memorial. I didn’t understand what was going on, only that I was cold, bored and being scolded for fidgeting. My second vivid memory is from a junior high school assembly in which a very old, very crotchety veteran lobbed disdain at my generation for being slackers and having no respect. As a result, for many years, Remembrance Day became a day of feeling guilty about who I am, along with a day for avoiding cold weather. A terrible thing.
It doesn’t have to be this way, as November 11th is as much about paying respect to lost lives as it is about valuing the freedom those deaths helped secure. Observing a moment of silence and attending a ceremony can be about appreciation for life rather than a sense of obligation. It’s simple really, just take a moment and list-off a handful of things you really value in life; chances are, you can easily connect them to the sacrifices made by our soldiers. Actively doing this makes the sentiments at the ceremonies personal and gives the moment of silence additional relevance. Most importantly though, it helps bring forth some positive feelings on such a solemn day.
Keep it Simple. Write an Email.
Still, not everyone wants to take in a half-day’s worth of ceremonial activities. If this is the case, don’t worry as it’s still possible to participate in a way that’s meaningful but also more concise and directed. Just keep it brief and uncomplicated: write a short email. Write it to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, your Member of Parliament or even to your local Chief of Police. Put down three reasons why you love your country, province/territory or city and tell the official to please work to preserve the values you expressed. It’s not a waste of time and actually, I’m certain you’ll get a written response from everyone but the Prime Minister. A few years back, I wrote an email about Canada’s foreign policy to National Defence Minster Peter MacKay and within a few weeks, I received a personalized response that heavily cited my original message. What this means is that your voice will be heard, which also means a quick, five minute email definitely has value.
Everybody’s different however and if ceremonies and writing letters aren’t your cup of tea, then just avoid them all together. Instead, do something to celebrate Remembrance Day rather than allowing it to slink past while you look the other way. My suggestion? Throw a party – a “Freedom Party”. Gather your closest friends and family for a potluck. Ask that people wear black as a material observance of lost lives and cap-off the gathering with lively discussion about the very best things you’ve seen, done, heard and experienced in your life. Spend even more time just chatting about goals, dreams, travel and adventure. Then one-by-one, as your guests leave, thank them individually for helping to celebrate the very things that soldiers fought to protect. Doing this gets you actively participating in the day and also helps draw the attention of your friends and family to some of the important sentiments behind the November holiday.
The above are just a few ideas about how to personally reclaim and observe Remembrance Day. A variety of perspectives can be fantastic, in that they sometimes open doors to viewpoints previously unconsidered. As such, if you’re reading this and have exciting thoughts or ideas as to how to engage in Remembrance Day, sharing in the comment section below would be warmly welcomed.
Note: A great resource for information on veterans, Canada’s participation in international conflicts and local Remembrance Day events can be found here.