Remembrance Day: A French Student’s Perspective – Mélanie Gay-Etchart

It is common in Europe, to remember the end of the First World War and the fallen. But all countries have different customs and habits on this day. As a French student living in Great Britain, I notice some of them.

First of all, in France we celebrate the end of the war on the 11th November when here, it is common to commemorate it during on this day and on the following Sunday (Remembrance Sunday).

One of the main and most obvious differences is that, in Britain, already the week before, most people can be seen wearing a Poppy, as a reminder and homage to the war heroes. In France, the 11th is the only moment when we really remember and celebrate the date, and it slowly getting forgotten.

Indeed, the majority of people who  experienced the First World War have passed and our generation sees it as a historic fact that does not have an impact on them. Most of them do not feel concerned by the past happening, and nowadays, patriotic feelings tend to disappear.

Despite the presence of the same idea in France, only a few people, a small minority, might be seen wearing a cornflower on Remembrance Day. Actually, it is often considered by people as a free day more than anything else. Each city has its own memorial and organizes a quite discreet ceremony on the 11th November but people rarely attend it.

There is also a national ceremony with the President of France, in Paris at “l’Arc de Triomphe”, broadcasted on the national television. There are other activities organised by different organisations, regions or city but they are not really popular. In Britain, one minute of silence in the whole country is held every year at the precise moment the war stopped 99 years ago. And on Sunday, like in France, there are several commemorations and ceremonies in the whole Britain.

Despite the fact that Britain was less directly impacted during the war, its way to remember on the 11th November has a deeper meaning and touches the whole nation. I am French but I think that my country should take example of Britain’s Remembrance Day.

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