Day 3 – 11 nov : Le Jour de l’Armistice
Please excuse my absence for the past few days. At first I was reeling from the results of the American elections. Then I was knee deep in research and thoughts in preparation for this week’s blog.
Today is November 11th. In the United States, we might refer to this date as Veteran’s day and this day is used to commemorate the veterans and fallen of all previous wars. In France, this day is solely for the commemoration of the fallen and the veterans of one war: WWI. French soldiers of WWI were called “les poilus”, literally meaning “the hairy”. They were called this because while deep in the trenches, they had no time to shave their beards. In France, WWI is most often referred to as “La Grande Guerre” or “la Guerre 14-18”. (Just in case you don’t know, this is referring to the years that WWI spanned: 1914-1918) Another French name for this day is “le jour de l’Armistice”, which celebrates the end of WWI. The war was said to have ended at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918.
Armistice day is a national holiday here. Schools are closed today. Many businesses took a four-day weekend. Today at 10:30am, there will be a national memorial ceremony shown live on tv and that will be presided by the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.
On Sunday morning, in my village, I attended two out of three ceremonies honoring the fallen and the veterans. Each dedication was short and sober, but heavy with emotion. The conciseness of the ceremonies left me wanting and curious. Armistice day is 90 years old today. But, its relevance is still necessary in a world like today. People then called it the Great War and the War to End All Wars. As interesting as this all is to me, you’re not here for a politics, nor a history lesson.
Here are some sites where you can go to read letters by “les poilus” or see some of these local and national memorials monuments.
1. lettres par poilus :
2. pictures of memorials :
I will put up some letters with their translations on my blog as soon as I get permission to do so. Although this stuff may seem gloomy, these are important topics to learn about. We do not choose what we learn in our mother tongues. To become fluent and conversive in other languages, we can choose to touch on all subjects. “Enjoy” the reading and allow it to take you that step closer to your goal in language learning.