Armistice 2020: How will France mark November 11th this year?

Armistice 2020: How will France mark November 11th this year?
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Photo: AFP
Armistice Day in France is normally marked by a parade in Paris and events around the country, but with the nation under lockdown, this year will be different.

What does November 11th mark?

November 11th is Armistice Day, remembering the day that the guns fell silent and the First World War ended. Now it is a day to commemorate the dead of all wars.

Is it a public holiday?

Yes, November 11th is a public holiday across France, so on Wednesday schools, public administration offices and most businesses will close.

Supermarkets generally remain open and in large cities shops tend to open as well – at least the ones that are allowed to under the current lockdown rules.

The usual Armistice Day parades will not happen this year. Photo: AFP

How does France mark the day?

Normally there is a large military parade along the Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris, and the French president lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Most cities and small towns have their own parades and wreath-laying and across the country flags are flown and flowers laid on war memorials.

Because of the lockdown, however, this year will be different.

President Emmanuel Macron will still lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, underneath the Arc de Triomphe, but he will be accompanied only by  “a very limited number of civil and military authorities” and the usual parade along the Champs Elysée will not take place. The ceremony will be broadcast on TV.

Elsewhere, wreath-laying ceremonies can take place, but only with a maximum of 10 people, all observing strict physical distancing. Members of the public will not be allowed to watch and veterans, who mostly fall into vulnerable groups such as the over 65s, will not be present.

Church bells will ring at 11am to mark the hour the First World War formally ended.

Also on Wednesday, the body of French writer and First World War veteran Maurice Genevoix will be inducted into the Panthéon – the highest honour available from the French state. The author, apparently a favourite of Macron's, died in 1980 at the age of 89, and much of his work deals with the lasting trauma of war. This ceremony will also be broadcast on French TV.

Are the other ways to mark the day?

French people often wear a bleuet (cornflower) in their buttonhole as an act of remembrance and Macron has encouraged those who can to make a donation online to the bleuet appeal, which supports those injured in war or in acts of terrorism. You can donate here.




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