On November 11th Canadians observe Remembrance Day, Americans observe Veterans Day – lest we forget. Are we forgetting? Is Remembrance Day still relevant? Should we be teaching our children the importance of Remembrance day?
All these questions swirl around in my head as I sit on the floor surrounded by the past: a badly creased photo of three young men in uniform arms slung around each other with “France 1945” scrawled on the back; hand written letters between aging army buddies a continent apart; an old Bank deposit book recording a Corporals pay; a pocket-sized bible holding a picture of a young women in a nurse’s uniform.
These are remnants of dark days, days fewer and fewer people can recall. Each puzzle piece bringing more questions I may never find answers to, more history I wish I had been able to learn. These things belonged to my Grandfather. I had traveled to see him, armed with a tape recorder to interview him about his days in the war and our family history, but he passed away before I could get there. Instead I ended up with his pictures, a few mementos and more questions then I could ever hope to have answered and an amazing sense of loss, both personal and realizing he would no longer be there to ask about our history.
I am writing this post in the hopes that it inspires you to discover and embrace your own family history and to remember all the men and women who fought and died in defense of freedom, giving us the gift of being able to grow up and raise families in peace. Here are some ways to learn and show your appreciation as a family this Remembrance day.
A Family History Project: Take the opportunity while you can to sit down with Grandparents and older relatives. Bring along a favorite snack and a way to record your conversation – a tape recorder or video recorder is great.
Have your children prepare questions they would like to talk about. This might be what daily life was like when they where children, favorite moments from growing up, life changing experiences – like going to war etc.
Do they have any old photographs? Now is the time to ask who is in them and why they are significant, especially if they are not labeled. If you can, ask to borrow them, or scan them onto the computer together so you have a digital family record.
Once you have interviewed and gathered your source material work together to create a family record. This could be a scrap book, a digital presentation or slide show with sound or video, or even a story written by your child that incorporates the major events in the grandparents life. Make enough copies to send to each branch of your family so everyone has their own copy. This would make a very special Christmas present.
Learning From the Past – Teens: History is doomed to repeat itself until we learn from it. Love, Hate and Propaganda is a six part documentary by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that explores World War II through the propaganda that both sides used. It is a very interesting exposure to WWII history and is a great program to sit down and watch with your teens.
Here is an excerpt from CBC: “CBC and Radio Canada present a 6 part documentary series about the role propaganda played during World War Two. With newsreels, posters, speeches, rallies, songs and radio, entire populations were convinced to go to war.”
Besides exposing your teen to important history, it allows for many interesting discussions on the topics of war, misconceptions, and marketing. Every piece of media we are exposed to, be it television, radio, newspaper, or book, is propaganda to an extent. Whether it’s convincing you to buy something, do something, go somewhere, think something, hate someone, or even go to war against somebody, the intent is the same: convince a person to think what you want them to.
The series is running again starting Nov. 6th or can be purchased as a set. The website provides episode guides and many resources to explore.
For younger children: Even younger children can appreciate the meaning behind Remembrance Day. Go out as a family to pick up poppies to wear on Remembrance day. Visit your local or national war memorial. Allow children to explore, to ask questions. Discuss what the listed names and dates on the memorial mean. Create a wreath, flower arrangement or Thank you card together to leave as a way of saying Thank You.
Supporting your community: You may or may not agree with the wars being fought today but behind all the politics there are real families being affected. Do you know anyone in your community who has a family member overseas or has been overseas? Why not show your appreciation with some baking and a handmade card? You could also visit a veterans hospital or home and bring some much needed cheer and conversation.
Remembrance day is a time of refection, learning and saying thank you. I hope there are some ideas here that will inspire you and your family to remember – lest we forget.