November 11 is Veterans Day, a federal holiday honoring all military veterans and originally commemorating the end of World War I. It’s marked on 11/11, an interesting date with a bit of history associated with its numbers.
Why is Veterans Day 11/11?
World War I was a massive military conflict in Europe between 1914–18. Joining France and Great Britain, the US fought on the Allied side against the German and Austria–Hungary empires. The war, often noted for its military technology, such as tanks and mustard gas, led to a death toll the world had never seen before, estimated at over 15 million.
On November 11, 1918, the Allies and Germany signed an armistice meant to end fighting on the Western Front, a region that included Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, and other bordering countries. And as a result, the cease-fire took effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. You can see why the number 11 would be an important part of commemorating the end of the war.
The interest in the significance of numbers like 11/11 is a phenomenon of numerology, the notion that numbers hold some intrinsic value beyond their function as symbols of quantity. Curious to know more? Learn what the mystical alignment of 11:11 can mean.
Why is the holiday called Veterans Day?
While World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919, the armistice halted hostilities and was the first official step in ending the war. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day to honor the armistice, which also corresponded with other countries’ adoption of the same.
Armistice Day was recognized by Congress in 1926, and it became a legal holiday in 1938. In other parts of the world, the day is still celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.
After World War II and the Korean War, which resulted in many new veterans who hadn’t served in World War I, veterans service organizations lobbied to change the name of Armistice Day. In 1954, Congress agreed, and amended the act to call the holiday Veterans Day. On October 8, 1954, President Eisenhower made the first Veterans Day Proclamation regarding this change. The day became less focused on World War I specifically and more on American veterans in general.
In 1968, more changes to the holiday were mandated. The Uniform Holiday Bill had been signed into law, and it moved Veterans Day, among other holidays, to the nearest Monday every year in order to give Federal workers three-day weekends. October 25, 1971 was the first Veterans Day celebrated on this date, and many states refused to honor it, celebrating on the traditional November 11th instead. In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law to return Veterans Day to its original date, which went into effect in 1978.
Does Veterans Day have an apostrophe?
Veterans Day is often incorrectly written as “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day.” But, in fact, it’s apostrophe free. You can read a full explanation of this grammar rule here. (Interestingly other holidays, like Mother’s Day, do take an apostrophe.)