Remembrance Day, for Real

There are many, many reasons I'd be happy (now more than ever) to flee north to Canada: jaunty currency, less-idiotic politicians, superior chocolate, generally lovely people, Mexx, &c. But what I'm especially impressed by, on the eve of Veterans Day (here)/Remembrance Day (there) is the fact that, from what I can surmise, Canadians are prepared to treat tomorrow as an actual occasion to remember their dead, rather than an occasion to save 30-50% on bedding or to buy a new TV with no money down.

We Americans botch our holidays something fierce: we treat them as either parameters for the summer season (Memorial Day and Labor Day), excuses for gluttony (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve), or encouragement for shopping (absolutely every other holiday, including President's Day and Martin Luther King's birthday). And while I can't say definitively that Canadians are immune from those ills (especially as they have a mind-bogglingly greater number of holidays than we do), I can say that four days in Vancouver this week revealed to me thousands of poppied lapels, several newspaper articles about the country's war dead, printed invitations to join in memorial services, and not a single solitary godforsaken advertisement using Remembrance Day as a sales pitch.

I'm sure there are Americans who will treat tomorrow as the day it was intended to be, just as I'm sure there are Canadians who won't do much by way of actual remembrance. But I can't help feeling that there's something American culture has ruined irreparably by allowing its holidays, whether joyous or reverent or some combination thereof, to stray so far from their original intents. We've lost things of great value, and have gained only marketing tools. That's a sad and sorry trade-off.