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Why is Veterans Day Always Observed on November Eleventh?
A Holiday Celebrating the End of a War
While Veterans Day can fall on any day of the week the date the holiday is observed is always November 11th.
The date of November eleventh is significant because the Veterans day holiday was originally celebrated to commemorate an event that took place on November eleventh and that was the World War I armistice or cease fire that occurred on that date.
After four years of war in which millions of soldiers and civilians were killed the two sides agreed to stop all combat at eleven o’clock on November 11, 1918. The idea was that each side would hold their positions and allow their diplomats to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty to end the war.
Remembering A Cease Fire Agreement That Stopped the Killing
At the time this was only a cease fire. Many expected the peace talks to fail and the war to resume.
However, the armistice did last and a few months later, on June 28, 1919, diplomats from the nations involved in the war signed the Treaty of Versailles which officially brought the war to an end.
For a war weary world it was the end of the fighting and death that the people remembered rather than the end result of diplomatic haggling.
So, in the years following, people in the nations that had engaged in World War I began to observe November 11th as a day to pause and remember those who had given their lives fighting in that war.
Armistice Day Becomes Veterans Day
In the years immediately following the end of World War I, November 11th came to be observed as an official holiday honoring those who gave their lives in World War I.
In the United States it was known as Armistice Day , while in the United Kingdom and many British Commonwealth nations it came to be called Remembrance Day. Other nations have different names for this day.
Following World War II, another horrific war on a global scale, many in the United States sought to honor those who gave their lives in that war by including them in the Armistice Day observance.
As a result of this the name changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day . At the same time the May 30th holiday, originally known as Decoration Day which honored those who had died in America’s Civil War, evolved into Memorial Day on which we honored the memory of those who had given their lives fighting in all of the nation’s wars.
Veterans Day Becomes a Floating Holiday
By the 1960s there were thousands of living veterans of World Wars One and Two and the Korean War as well as a rapidly dwindling number of still living veterans of the Civil War and Spanish American War (and we were soon to get Veterans of the Vietnam War that was just starting).
With Memorial Day now honoring all those who had sacrificed their lives in the defense of the United States, the focus of Veterans Day shifted to honor all veterans, living and dead, who had fought to defend the nation.
In 1968, bowing to the demands for more three day weekends, the U.S. Congress changed the dates of many official holidays, including Veterans Day, to the Monday nearest the traditional date of the holiday.
This was good in many ways and for most of the holidays - Columbus Day, Memorial Day, Presidents Day (Washington & Lincoln’s birthdays combined), etc. moving them from a fixed to a floating holiday didn’t make any difference.
Veterans Day Returns to November 11th
However, in the case of Veterans Day the exact date was important. Important first to the many World War I veterans and their families who were still living at that time.
Second, and in many ways more important, was that not only did the cease fire take place on November Eleventh but the fighting officially stopped at 11 A.M. (European time) on that day which also happened to occur in November which is the eleventh month of the year.
For many, it was still important to remember that the day originally commemorated the end of the fighting in World War I which took place at the Eleventh Hour, of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month in 1918.