My “let’s have a parade” colleague wants to make Remembrance Day a national holiday. He suspects that bigger, more overt displays on Remembrance Day might intensify our appreciation of the sacrifices made by those who went before.
But would it? A national Remembrance Day holiday might actually diminish our appreciation, or worse, change it.
To justify a national holiday we would need more and bigger national ceremonies. We’d need more fly pasts, more flags, and more pomp and circumstance. We’d likely no longer be able to avoid the kind of hyperbole of heroism and romanticising of war we hear emanating from south of us. We might unwittingly turn Remembrance Day into a celebration.
And Canadians don’t celebrate Remembrance Day, we observe it.
So I hope we don’t change Remembrance Day – because it’s a day Canadians really get right.
The first, mid-October poppies on lapels; silent, symbols which multiply as Nov. 11 approaches; like those in Flanders field; such a powerful statement.
The placing of wreaths at cenotaphs, the twenty-one gun salute in Ottawa, the moment of silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh month; it’s so solemn and poignant.
Thirteen years of Remembrance Day assemblies in our schools have helped each of us accept the solemnity of the day, allowing Remembrance Day to strike a balance between our deep appreciation for military contribution and our strong abhorrence of war.
Nov. 11th was declared a “day of remembrance” in1931. It was the very fact that it wasn’t declared a national holiday which forced Canadians to observe the day together in workplaces, offices and schools and develop our respectful observance of the day.
If we declare Remembrance Day a national holiday, Canadians would have time to organize Remembrance Day hockey tournaments, annual fishing trips, or shopping outings across the line. No one is against hockey tournaments or fishing weekends, but I’m not sure that a part of the value of Remembrance Day should be to provide time off for recreational opportunities.
The way we observe Remembrance Day doesn’t require intensifying or improvement. The solemn balance Canadians have achieved in our observance of Remembrance Day is maintained by deep tradition, tradition that expresses the respectful remembrance of Canadians with perfect pitch and volume.
More isn’t better and louder isn’t stronger.