Armistice Day is the anniversary of the symbolic end of World War I on 11 November 1918. It commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Rethondes, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning, the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”. While this official date to mark the end of the war reflects the ceasefire on the Western Front, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire.
The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations to commemorate those members of the armed forces who were killed during war. Called Armistice Day in many countries, it was known as National Day in Poland (also a public holiday) called Polish Independence Day. After World War II, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day in the United States and to Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Armistice Day remains an official holiday in France. It is also an official holiday in Belgium, known also as the Day of Peace in the Flanders Fields.
In many parts of the world people take a two minute moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. as a sign of respect for the roughly eight million who died in the war, as suggested by Edward George Honey in a letter to a British newspaper although Wellesley Tudor Pole established two ceremonial periods of remembrance based on events in 1917. In Germany however, it coincides with the official beginning of the carnival season.
Beginning in 1939 the two-minute silence was moved to the Sunday nearest 11 November in order not to interfere with wartime production should 11 November fall on a weekday. Since the 1990s a growing number of people have observed a two-minute silence on 11 November, resulting in both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday being commemorated formally in the UK (although in 2007 they fell on the same day).