Armistice Day is taking on a particular significance this year, as the centenary of the start of World War I brings memories of the conflict to the forefront around the world.
While the United Kingdom has focused heavily on remembering the fallen this year, not least with the stunning display of over 800,000 ceramic poppies filling the dry moat surrounding the Tower of London as part of a dramatic art installation entitled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”, other parts of the globe have also taken to honouring the victims of the tragic war, which had originally been conceived as “the war to end all wars”.
In NZ, members of the Defence Force filled the streets outside Parliament in Wellington to join two minutes’ silence with the Legislative Council Chamber, while in Auckland, a local car wash offered free car washes with the assistance of several in-duty sailors.
While Anzac Day on 25 April each year is a much more significant memorial day dedicated to the remembrance of World War I in New Zealand, the centenary events seem to even have managed to reach Kiwi shores this year. New Zealand’s own poppy initiative saw part of 5000 hand-crafted poppies on display, which are being created by the public ahead of Anzac Day 2015, which will mark the 96th anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli in Turkey.
Meanwhile over in Turkey, annual commemorations to mark the anniversary of the death of state-founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk tend to overshadow any other public event on and around 10 November each year, while over in Germany – often viewed as the main aggressor in World War I (though refuted as such by many historians) – the eleventh day of the eleventh month rather signifies a different cause for celebration; the opening of carnival season is declared throughout many Catholic sections of the country on this very day, which also commemorates Saint Martin of Tours in the Catholic calendar. While this may not directly be related to Armistice Day, these joyful celebrations have gradually amplified in significance after the events of the past century.
Traditions vary around the world, with our own ethnocentrism often dictating which direction we may follow culturally. Perhaps this year, it might be worthwhile looking at other events around the world as well in order not to cloud our own judgement of world events. After all, isn’t that where the seeds of conflict and discord are usually sown?