Saturday, November 12, 2011

armistice day


Today is Armistice Day--November 11th. Celebrated very similarly to Memorial Day in the US, towns all around France have traditional festivities to commemorate the end of World War I. At 11 o'clock on November 11th in 1918, in a forest just north of Paris, an armistice was signed between the Germans and the Allies, putting an end to a war that had lasted 4 years and had ravaged Europe. Even though this was almost 100 years ago, the memory of the tragic losses and destruction is still strong.

St. Denis cemetery, Evreux

As this is a national holiday, most things are closed today, including schools! I went to Mass this morning at the Cathedral. It was a special Mass for peace, and there were a few soldiers there with the French flag. It is common in most American churches to have an American flag somewhere inside, accompanied by the Vatican flag, but in France, that is not common. Because of the distinct and strict separation of Church and State in France, the French flag isn't displayed in churches.

Because of Mass, I missed a small military parade in the center of town, but I did see the barricades and City Hall decorated with flags. Evreux flew the flags of each country involved in World War I, so I saw an American flag!

this is probably the only day an American flag can be flown in France!

At 11am, there was a small ceremony at the local cemetery. It reminded me of what Park Ridge does in Hodges Park on Memorial Day. The mayor gave a speech and a military officer read a letter from President Sarkozy. There were representatives from the different branches of the military, as well as from various war memorial groups in Evreux, who laid flowers on the World War I memorial in the cemetery. A group from the Evreux community band played the Marseillaise (the French national anthem) to conclude the ceremony, which lasted about half an hour.

the mayor of Evreux giving a speech at the cemetery

It was really interesting to see how another country commemorates an event like this. I am used to American celebrations, but the US is such a young country in comparison to Europe. Our culture, history, and traditions are not as deeply rooted as those in France. Just from hearing the mayor's speech or seeing military uniforms, I noticed so many indications that this is an old country, one that has a very rich, particular history. It was really neat to be able to take part of this little ceremony! Happy Armistice Day!

pax christi.

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