I think we forget, especially in Canada, that our history was filled with battles for freedom and that we live the lives we do now because of brave sacrifices made then. It saddens me that with veterans of WWI now deceased, we seem to be letting Remembrance Day pass by us with little actual remembrance.
Recently, I’d been discussing with people what relation (if any) decorating for Christmas immediately after Hallowe’en has on Remembrance Day. The graphic above was circulating on Facebook, wrist-slapping people who do not wait till November 12th to decorate for Christmas. It claims it’s disrespectful to veterans.
I don’t think decorating prior to the 12th is at all disrespectful to vets (and I actually find this image of a tsk-tsking Santa Claus completely ridiculous); I bet most vets would feel the same if only we were truly remembering their sacrifices.
What is the answer then? Education. Appreciation. Remembrance for more than a moment of forced silence one day per year. Insisting people hold off on decorating for one more day is a simplistic retaliation, throwing blame at the holiday-eager. And it’s not the answer. I don’t decorate early, but it isn’t out of self-righteous respect; it’s because as much as I love Christmas, two months of it is about 6 weeks to much for me. And as strongly as I feel about the importance of remembering with solemn gratitude the lives of those who fought for us and those who protect us, it’s not Christmas’ fault that we’ve been neglecting the day.
We need to teach our children what freedom truly means. We need to instill in them appreciation for our history, and tell them what others gave so that we would never have to give. Our children need to know exactly how lucky we are to live in our country, to not worry about our lives every moment, to have rights and freedoms. And for the love of, well, everything, let’s stop wishing people a “Happy Remembrance Day!”.
My great uncle died in World War I. Just a boy of 17, he stretched the truth about his age and enlisted. What makes this even more remarkable (to me) is that this boy enlisted in a war to fight for a country he was not yet a part of. My grandmother (now deceased) recalled her big brother valiantly signing up in honour of England (though Newfoundland was an independent at that time) and Canada and leaving for war.
“A fine name, a lovely name, Eric Francis Taylor” is what he used to say. It has stuck with me my entire life. According to my grandmother, he was jaunty and fun-loving, braver than he ought to have been, idealistic and foolhardy. He was her big brother. He gave his short life for a future he would never see, and for that we should all be grateful. I always wanted to name a child after him, this man who died when my grandmother was just a little girl, out of respect. A cousin beat me to it, but I’m happy that a living relative carries his name.
Leading up to November 11th, instead of placing blame elsewhere for the fading of Remembrance Day, let’s take on the responsibility to teach our children about the men and women who fought hard for us. Wear your poppy over your heart with thanks and pride. Let’s teach our kids the meaning behind the haunting words of In Flanders Fields.
Remind them that even now, brave people protect us. Let’s give them the gift of history, of knowing who these men and women were and are today. On that one day a year, honour them with a minute of silence and reflection, but let’s also remember them throughout the year.
I am sure that not one of them fought for glory or to insist you to wait an extra day to decorate for a happy holiday. I am sure they fought for your freedom to do as you wish; to celebrate the holidays you want, to live our lives in peace.
So let’s do them the honour of respecting each other and remembering them.
A fine name, a lovely name, Eric Francis Taylor.