Armistice Day is among the most solemn holidays in France
. Held every November 11th, it commemorates the armistice formed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France. But for the French, it's mostly a day when they remember the fallen members of the military. Even though it's an international holiday, you'd sooner think that Armistice Day was a national holiday. Especially if you're in Paris. The celebrations here are pretty extraordinary and if you're thinking of moving to France and becoming a citizen here, you'd do well to learn more about it.
A Public Holiday
Just how much does France take Armistice Day seriously? Well, it's one of the few countries in Europe that has made it a public holiday. School is out and those working in France
don't have to go to the office. In contrast to other countries in the region, where Armistice Day is not a national or public holiday, this only goes to show that this historic occasion had a lot more weight in France than anywhere else. This isn't to say that other nations don't take the holiday seriously, but certainly not to the degree that France, specifically Paris, does.
The 11th Hour
Seeing as Armistice Day is held on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. The 11th hour, 11:00 am, is when Paris, as well as the rest of France, spends a few minutes in silence. No matter which neighborhood in Paris
you are in, you don't make a peep. Kids playing outside are asked to stop their games while establishments are requested to pause any music they're playing. If you thought that the only area in Paris that remains solemn during Armistice Day is by the Arc de Triomphe, think again. The entire city observes silence come 11:00 am on November 11th.
Tomb of the Unknown
Speaking of the Arc de Triomphe, the iconic monument in the upscale Champs-Élysées district
, this is where most of the important festivities for Armistice Day are held. Every year, the current French President places a tri-color wreath by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It's located by the base of the famous Arc, marked by its never-ending eternal flame. You can say that this is the most important and symbolic part of celebrating Armistice Day in France. After all, the country regards the holiday as a tribute to its fallen soldiers.
Public Services Throughout France
While the grandest Armistice Day celebrations are in Paris, the country's capital city, this doesn't mean that other parts of France aren't holding their own celebrations. Various regions of France, even those all the way in the French countryside
, hold their own military parades, solemn ceremonies, and the like. A number of them mimic what happens in Paris, with local leaders taking up the role of placing tri-colored wreaths near monuments, flagpoles, and the like. And speaking of flagpoles. Armistice Day is one of the few days of the year when the French flag is flown throughout the entire country.
During Armistice Day in Paris—or in any other part of France, for that matter—you'll notice that there's one specific flower pinned on the clothes of most people. This is the bleuet
, known in English as the cornflower. It's the symbolic flower of the holiday. Every Armistice Day, the French pin the bleuet on their clothes, decorate wreaths with it, and more. In the language of flowers, the cornflower symbolized hope and love, both of which the French express to the fallen soldiers on this holiday. Furthermore, the color also represents the blue uniforms French soldiers wore during the First World War.
Armistice Day in Paris is pretty extraordinary. Though it's an international holiday, they celebrate it quite differently in the French capital. It's more solemn, more fascinating, and definitely more exciting!