Memorial Days Around the World


By Emily Apuzzo Hopkins | 24 May 2022

The upcoming Memorial Day holiday, celebrated on May 30th in 2022, may on its surface appear to be a very American holiday – often celebrated at family gatherings and barbecues as the unofficial start of the summer season. However, the holiday is rooted in a deep respect for fallen soldiers during the United States’ Civil War and has evolved to include all of those soldiers who have lost their lives in times of conflict.


U.S. Memorial Day: Then and Now


Such a holiday exists in many forms across many countries and cultures and has even evolved as other historical events have unfolded. A perfect example of this is the upcoming Memorial Day holiday celebrated in the United States. It first emerged after the 1860s Civil War as Decoration Day – a day to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the war by decorating their graves in remembrance. It became an official holiday in 1971 and is recognized on the last Monday of May each year. It has also grown to include all fallen soldiers – not just those who lost their lives in the American Civil War. Memorial Day is often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) – these articles from NPR and the USO do a great job at explaining their similarities and differences, including some ideas about how to celebrate these dates appropriately.



The November 11th holiday may feel familiar, as while it is the Veteran’s Day holiday in the United States, this date is also important across the world. In the United Kingdom and Canada November 11th is Remembrance Day and “closer in purpose to U.S. Memorial Day.” (Read: Babbel’s How People Commemorate Memorial Day Around The World) The French holiday Armistice Day is also celebrated on November 11th through solemn observance of all those who have died in wartime. Nigeria once celebrated its Armed Forces Remembrance Day on the same date, but following the end of its Civil War in 1970, shifted the holiday to January.



During World War I, the Gallipoli Campaign left an indelible mark in the history books, especially for those in Australia, New Zealand, and Turkey. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and soldiers who fought during this WWI battle are often referred to as Anzacs. Although the military campaign was unsuccessful for the Anzacs, it is said that “the actions of Australian and New Zealand forces during the campaign left a powerful legacy.” (Read: Australian War Memorial’s History of Anzac Day) The Anzac Day holiday is celebrated annually on April 25th and it is worth noting the red poppy, a symbol for Remembrance Day, is also the main icon for ANZAC Day. The Turkish Martyr’s Day holiday, while also commemorating lives lost during the Gallipoli Campaign, is held on March 18th.


Looking back, looking forward….

Looking forward to a better future has always been the aim of current generations. Memorial Days, where we reflect on the tragedy of loss of life in war and conflict, provide an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of peace, for all humanity.  The loss of loved ones, the impact on families and communities is undoubtedly tragic and we can take these holidays to resolve our intention to commit to peace as nations and communities.


Resources and Reflection

Want to read more about Memorial Day holidays around the world? Check out these resources to expand your knowledge. Take some time to reflect on the holidays, circumstances and events that led to conflict, and the multiple perspectives that are often a part of those events.

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