November 11th is a very meaningful date. On this day in 1918, the two sides in World War I signed an agreement to stop fighting (an armistice). The final peace treaty was not signed till seven months later, but November 11th is considered the day the war ended.
It was, of course, the eleventh day of the eleventh month - and the armistice was signed at 11:00 in the morning.
Many countries began to celebrate a holiday on this date. For example, in 1926 the U.S. Congress said, "it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace". Congress said Americans should be asked "to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples."
At first, November 11th was called Armistice Day. In 1954, this was changed to Veterans Day, in honor of veterans of all U.S. wars.
In Canada (as in other British Commonwealth countries), it is called Remembrance Day. Its purpose is mainly to honor the war dead. Veterans and today's soldiers are also remembered.
Whatever the holiday is called, those who celebrate it seem to want to keep it on November 11th. Moving it to the nearest Monday would give many people a long weekend. However, when the U.S. tried this in 1971, it didn't work. Many States went on having their Veterans Day celebrations on the 11th. People got confused about where it was a holiday and where it wasn't. In 1978, it was changed back to November 11th for the whole country.
Canada once celebrated Thanksgiving Day in November. It was moved to October because it was too close to Remembrance Day.
Americans feel the same way about November 11th as they do about July 4th (Independence Day): Celebrating the holiday on the same date every year is more important than having three days off in a row. Few people want to move Independence Day, and few want to move Veterans Day either.
November 11th will remain an important day for the countries who celebrate it.
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