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Five Other Remembrance Days Across the World

Those of us in the U.S. are celebrating Memorial Day today - a day to honor lost loved ones and soldiers (more on that in a minute). But our Memorial Day is just one of many Remembrance days across the world. Here are the traditions of a few of them (and a little explanation of ours).

U.S. Memorial Day

The U.S. Memorial Day was originally conceived to honor soldiers (Union soldiers, specifically) who had fallen in the Civil War, so you can see it has been a tradition for quite some time. It's hard to say exactly where it started, because more than two dozen cities claim they originated the day, but in 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson officially declared Waterloo, N.Y., the home of Memorial Day. Although some of us forget what a solemn occasion the day is, at least one group of people remember: the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry spend the Thursday prior to the holiday placing small American flags at the graves of more than a quarter of a million gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery. They spend the rest of the weekend patrolling the grounds to make sure each and every flag remains upright and flying.

Anzac Day

Every year on the 25th of April, Australia and New Zealand honor their soldiers - the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) - who fought in the Gallipoli Campaign of WWI. Nearly 11,000 soldiers died during the eight-month campaign (and nearly 80,000 died in the war overall). The holiday was officially declared in 1920 and ever since, people have honored some obvious traditions - memorial services, marches and events honoring veterans - and some not-so obvious ones. For instance, some people play two-up, an Australian gambling game, because it was one of the ways soldiers amused themselves. And it's not uncommon to add a little rum to your coffee that day to honor the "gunfire breakfast" some soldiers used to warm their bellies before battle. Like the United States' Memorial Day, Anzac Day has now broadened to honor all loved ones who have passed away and not just the soldiers.

Vimy Ridge Day

This unofficial Canadian holiday has only been around since 2003, so compared to the others on the list, it's a newcomer. On the ninth of April, Canadians remember their lost soldiers from the Battle of Vimy Ridge from WWI. It was the first time all four divisions of the Canadian Corps had ever fought together, and although they were successful in taking the ridge from the German troops, they lost nearly 4,000 men in the process. Canadians honor the soldiers who gave their lives in this battle by lowering flags to half mast, holding ceremonies and leaving wreaths on graves and monuments. Unlike others on this list, this holiday has not expanded to include any deceased loved ones - it remains specifically dedicated to the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Incidentally, there is a monument at the actual site of the battle; it's one of only two Canadian National Monuments located outside of Canada (the other one is also in France).


The Dutch remember the members of the armed forces of the Kingdrom of the Netherlands on May 4 every year. The royal family attends a ceremony held at the national monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam and at 8 p.m., the entire country grinds to a halt for two minutes in respect to those who died in wars or peacekeeping missions. Public transportation doesn't run and television and radio stations don't broadcast anything. Up until 1961, Dodenherdenking was only meant to honor victims of WWII, but like most other countries with similar memorial days, it now includes everyone. Dutch people have another holiday the following day the fifth of May is Liberation Day in the Netherlands and celebrates the day the Canadian army (largely the Canadian army, anyway) freed the Netherlands from Nazi occupation during WWII. Strangely, Liberation Day used to be held only once every five years, but since 1990, it has been a yearly event. Photo via Canada at War.


The German memorial day was proposed in 1919 and was meant to remember those who died in WWI. Some thought it was appropriate and others didn't, largely due to the fact that there was a dispute over what laws the Reich could enact and what laws the states could enact. It created a lot of confusion (and probably some angry politicians), so it wasn't really regularly celebrated until about 1934, when the Nazis declared it an official holiday. Except they mangled the meaning all around and called it Heldengedenktag, the Day of Commemoration of Heroes. It's not a bad idea in theory, but the Nazis turned it into inappropriate (and scary) hero-worship. That version of Volkstrauertag ended in 1945, but in 1948, the country brought back the holiday with its original intent. To commemorate the occasion, two Sundays before Advent, various goverment officials from the Chancellor to the Bundespräsident give speeches and the song "Ich hatt' einen Kameraden" (I had a comrade) is played. Photo via Reservistenverband.

How about Canada's Remembrance Day? Formerly Armistice Day it marked the date and time of the end of the first world war - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - 11:00 AM November 11. We honour our servicemen and women fallen in the WW 1 and all subsequent wars. Everything comes to a halt and falls silent for two minutes. It's not a holiday, but a time for reflection and remembrance.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
John McCrae
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ANZAC day for all loved ones who've passed away? All military deaths, but not everyone. I'm Australia and I've never heard anyone interpret ANZAC Day as anything but remembrance of military/war deaths. Though maybe I live in the wrong area? :/
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Agreed that Canadian Remembrance Day is missing from this list - it's amazing to see that everything in the country stops for 2 minutes on 11/11 at 11:11.
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Likewise, the US Memorial Day is not to remember all loved ones, but those in the military who have died. It is true that this is expanded from all soldiers who have died in battle, but definitely not just a carte-blanche for all deceased.

I will note, however, that quite often living service men and women are honored on Memorial Day, even though there is a separate holiday for veterans. :)
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Luckily the dutch were liberated by largely canadian (and polish and even morroccan) forces since the americans had a policy in france and belgium of first levelling the place and kill am all an let god sort them out. This prevented the dutch of suffering more casualties than nessacery. Holland was apart from Denmark the last country to be liberated and in Holland especially (Holland is only two provences of the netherlands) we commemorate the 26.000 that starved to death in winter 44/45.
Of course history could not be more cruel, the first thing the new dutch government in '45 did was planning to re-occupy the dutch east-indies. Liberty was soon taken as an excuse to enforce dutch law on the indonesians, sad but true.

and yes i'm dutch, and i feel ashamed
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I think that on Memorial days around the World EVERY death Soldier, not only these of the Celebrating Country, should be remembered.

The Turks under Ataturk made a perfect example with the Memorial at ANZAC Cove.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
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Wow, Betseflets. Don't even know where to start on your revisionist history there. My wife's parents both lived in the Netherlands when Canadians and Americans arrived to liberate the country. But even if there were no Americans involved, a little gratitude for the sacrifices made by so many Americans on behalf of all of Europe would be more appropriate than your skewed historical recollection. Perhaps you'd prefer if we had left you to the 3rd Reich?

As for your claim about US forces policy to "kill am all an let god sort them out"... is really too much. Maybe you shouldn't be getting your history from the Internet.
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I'm just surprised noone mentioned ANZAC biscuits. People eat them on ANZAC day, I think they are one of the most well-known aspects of the day. I never even think about two-up and I'd never previously heard of the rum thing.
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Actually the "Volkstrauertag" (Peoples mourning day) is about the victims of both world wars both soldiers and civilians, and the victims (not only soldiers) of all "violent nations" and war in general.
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RebeccaSee; ANZAC biscuits are fantastic but not just eaten on ANZAC Day - all year round. The rum thing is actually Rum and Milk, not coffee. I'd never heard of it until a few years ago when I started attending the dawn service at my local RSL. After the dawn service, they line up hundreds of those little plastic medicine cups and fill them with milk and a healthy slug of rum. Interesting drink...
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Vimy Ridge Day?
As noted before, Canada has Remembrance Day. We wear poppies in lieu of. (The poppy being a symbol taken from "Flanders Field" a poem quoted previously written by a Canadian soldier).

Guy who is talking about Europe being the third reich if it wasn't for America... uh America's illustrious history with WWII astounds me. You cats that state you were such heroes for stepping in when you did tick me off. America got involved years after they found out what the Nazis were doing, and only because Japan was allied with Germany and Japan of course bombed Pearl Harbor. If it wasn't for that move as if America even cared. So don't act like there was much heroics involved. Hell American companies supplied the Nazis with computers and such. I know I'm going to spark a lot of ire with this but so be it.
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I am sorry but it was not well known what the Nazis were doing, there were Reports about the Concentration Camps, but nobody was believing that millions of Human beings were systemically killed. Then you have to remember that the USA were supporting the war in Europe with ressources, but it was impossible to do it openly, because the Nazis had a big following in the USA and many Citizens of the United States believed that they should not get into another big war in Europe. It took Pearl Harbor to wake the sleeping Giant, and i am grateful that the USA got into the war, i would not want to goosestep around here in Germany.
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I'm from NZ and fiancee to a Veteran. Anzac day is to honour all veterans, particularly those who fell, it's most definitely not a day to remember everyone who has passed away. Otherwise, there's not a lot of point to a war memorial day!

Also, for those who are interested...every year Turkey is kind enough to host an Anzac memorial service at Gallipoli to honour the Turkish, Australian and NZ soldiers who fell. NZ and Australia gave more lives per capita than any other country in either world war.
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slight correction on dodenherdenking;since 1990 bevrijdingsdag is a national day-off every 5 years,instead of every is (as it hes been)celebrated every year.
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