On Remembrance Day here in Canada (November 11th - same as US Veterans Day) we honour veterans and those who gave their lives defending our Country. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we have a moment of silence to remember those men and women who fought for us.
There are ceremonies all across Canada at local monuments (Cenotaphs). The ceremonies all have a lot of common features. The ceremony that I attended this year with the 8-year-old took place at Cole Harbour Place Cenotaph, which is at Cole Harbour Place, a local community center which has a swimming pool, a skating rink and a library.
Everyone wears a poppy as a symbol of remembrance. The poppy's are given out for a donation by the Royal Canadian Legion. They are small red flowers with straight pins to attach them to your coat or hat. This is a reference to the famous poem "In Flanders Fields the Poppies Grow" by John McRae.
The ceremony started by a parade of veterans, current military personnel, and members of service organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Guides (the Canadian version of Girl Scouts) all dressed in uniform. The parade starts about a block away at a local high school, marches right up the street to Cole Harbour Place. It starts at 10:45am.
Standing guard at the Cenotaph throughout the ceremony are several soldiers who are not to move at all. They have to be in place before the parade arrives.
Once all of the parade members are in place, the ceremony begins. The ceremony consists of singing "O, Canada", prayers, readings, hymns and of course, 2 minutes of silence at 11am. There was a bugler to play "Reveille" and "Last Watch" at appropriate times.
Near the end of the ceremony wreaths are placed on the cenotaphs. The wreaths are also covered in the red poppies. Wreaths are all labeled with the name of the group they represent, such as the Government of Canada, the Korean War Veterans, the Air Cadets, etc. There are also personal wreaths in memory of specific soldiers who died in the war as well as one for the 'unknown soldier'.
This year, the wreath section of the ceremony was marred, in my opinion. Along with the above mentioned groups, there were wreaths on behalf of various schools in the area and various churches, which seemed appropriate enough. Then, there were wreaths on behalf of specific political parties - a bit less appropriate, and finally specific businesses, which seemed just tacky and wrong.
In Nova Scotia, there has never been Sunday shopping allowed until a few weeks ago, except for drug store and convenience stores. Within the last month or two, Sunday shopping has become fully available, with malls, grocery stores, and all sorts of businesses opening. In the new law, stores were no longer banned from operating on any day, except for Remembrance Day. I found it very tacky that some businesses, (restaurants, weight loss centers, and plant stores) would use a solemn ceremony as a means of advertising.
I took my 8-year-old to the ceremony as a member of a service organization. Even he noted how odd it was that a weight loss center brought a wreath.
After the ceremony concludes, the flag is set at half-mast. Then all the observers are given the opportunity to place their poppy pins on the wreaths at the base of the cenotaph.
Parking is notoriously awful at these events, and we ended up walking about 3 blocks from the car. (Taking a bus wouldn't work because the buses don't run on holidays in our neighbourhood.)
After the ceremony there is a reception for the children participants inside Cole Harbour Place, with cookies and hot chocolate (especially important when the weather is nasty). There is also a reception held at the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion for adult participants.
Overall I recommend taking part in a ceremony. It is important for our children to learn about war, and even more important while we're fighting currently. However, that being said, it does tend to be a long service and small children would find it boring, which would not be good considering the occasion. So, I recommend children go only when they are old enough to stand and listen (usually when they go to school).
Because weather in NS is unpredictable, it is a good idea to bring a toque and mittens as well, since you have to stand outside for a long time.