Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Read the full disclosure policy here.
Armistice Day in France, on November 11 each year, is a significant day in the French calendar. Armistice Day is known as Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth and Veterans Day in the United States. It is a day to remember and honour the fallen soldiers of World War I (1914-1918), and a time to reflect on the importance of peace. Armistice Day, a national holiday in France, is celebrated all over the country. Small towns and large cities hold ceremonies, speeches, and military parades to honour the fallen.
If you are visiting Paris in November, here is how Armistice Day in France is celebrated.
History Of Armistice Day
Armistice Day honours the armistice agreement signed on November 11, 1918, between the warring countries, ending World War I (1914-1918). The armistice, signed at 5:45 a.m., near Compiègne France was to end all fighting on land, sea, and air in November 1918.
The Armistice de Compiègne, as it was called, came into effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The ceasefire was signed but fighting continued until 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918. Close to 3,000 soldiers lost their lives on the last day of the war.
Armistice Day in France is an opportunity for the French to remember the 1.4 million soldiers who lost their lives for France during the First World War. This day is also significant because it is a reminder of the value of peace and the importance of avoiding conflict. It couldn’t be a better year to reflect on peace than in 2023.
Losses In World War I
The human cost of World War I is staggering. The total loss of human lives mounted to 18.6 million. 9.7 million military lost their lives and 8.9 million civilians. It is unfathomable.
In World War I, France lost 1.4 million military and 300,000 civilians.
Armistice Day in France is considered by 90% of the people to be as important as July 14, Bastille Day. For, every French family has been touched by the devastating losses of WWI.
In talking to my French friend, it is with palpable sorrow that he recounts how everyone lost a grandfather or great-uncle. And, those that returned from the battlefront had very difficult lives.
What To Expect On Armistice Day In France
On November 11 in France, ceremonies are held across the country to pay tribute to fallen soldiers.
The ceremonies for Armistice Day are sober events, displaying solemnity and patriotism. The emotions at the event are palpable, making visitors feel introspective and reflective of the significance of the occasion.
Armistice Day In Paris
In Paris, there is a military parade on the Champs-Élysées, led by the French President, usually accompanied by other world leaders. The event is also attended by war veterans.
In 2022, President Macron first stopped at the Georges Clemenceau statue on the Champs Elysées. Georges Clemenceau known as “The Tiger” and also “Father Victory” (Père la Victoire in French) was the French Prime Minister during WW1.
In 2022, President Macron had a quick word with Georges Clemenceau’s great-great-grandchildren and other family members. He asked them if they still represent Clemenceau’s values. Learn more about Georges Clemenceau.
The Presidential cars all made their way up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. President Macron reviewed the troops and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Of course, there was a minute of silence.
Armistice Day In Small Towns
Each small town will have their own unique ceremony on Armistice Day but it is certain to begin with a gathering around the Memorial of the Dead (Monument aux Morts). On the Monument aux Morts de France, the names of deceased soldiers from the city or village are listed.
A speech from the French Government is given to each mayor and will be read in front of the Monument aux Morts de France. Often the local mayor will add in their own personal words.
After, the names of the soldiers, generally these were kids or young men, who died are read aloud. After each name, the gathered crowd will say aloud, “Mort pour la France.” (Died for France)
Some villages will include information about each soldier, perhaps about their battalion, and their date and location of death.
Of course, there will be a minute of silence to remember the fallen.
Afterwards, depending on the community, the locals will have a drink together and also lunch demonstrating their solidarity and patriotism.
Visiting Memorials And Cemeteries
On Armistice Day in France, you may visit the memorials commemorating the First and Second World Wars, scattered throughout the French countryside or located in small villages.
The most visited among these memorial sites may be those located in the region of Normandy and the Ardennes, where the famous battles of Belleau Wood and Verdun occurred. These sites now serve as memorial grounds for visitors to pay tribute to the fallen.
5 Interesting Armistice Day Facts
1. The Blue Cornflower
In the Commonwealth, we wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day. On Armistice Day in France, the French wear a blue cornflower (the Bleuet de France). The Bleuet de France is not as commonly seen or worn as poppies are in Canada or Britain, for example. But, you will notice this symbol of Armistice Day in France on the lapels of government officials and the general public.
And why was the Bleuet de France chosen to represent the fallen soldiers on Armistice Day in France?
After WWI, the blue cornflower blossomed all over the battlefields where the soldiers had fallen. It became a symbol of hope.
“Bleuet” was also the name given to the young French soldiers in WWI who wore a blue uniform. Incidentally, the colour of the French uniform was changed in 1921 to khaki. In WWII the French army was back to wearing blue.
In 1925, two nurses came up with the idea to sew blue cornflowers made from cloth to raise money for war veterans of World War I. On Armistice Day in France in 1934, the first cloth “bleuets” were sold and every year since there has been a new version of the “bleuet.”
2. During the Nazi Occupation
During the Nazi occupation of France, the Germans allowed the daily ceremony of reigniting the eternal flame on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
On the other hand, the Germans disallowed the Armistice Day Ceremonies on November 11 as they celebrated the past victory over Germany.
3. The Only War Monument Bearing A Woman’s Name
In La Forêt-du-Temple, on the Monument aux Morts de France, the name of Emma Bujardet is engraved. She died of grief in 1917 after losing all three of her sons in WWI (1914-1918). It was a municipal decision to add her name to the Monument for the Dead as she died for France. It is the only such monument in France bearing a woman’s name.
4. The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier
The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier was not ready on November 11, 1920. The unknown soldier was finally buried on January 28, 1921.
5. The Flame Of Remembrance
It was two years after the burial of the Unknown Soldier that the idea to have an eternal Flame of Remembrance was created. The flame was lit on November 11, 1923. This year, 2023, marks the 100th year that the flame has been burning.
Every evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Arc de Triomphe, the flame is rekindled in a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Have you ever watched this daily ceremony? Veterans gather, organise, and then proceed to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I find it moving every time.
What Movie To Watch About WWI?
Last year, while watching the Armistice Day in France ceremonies on TV, the announcers recommended 1917 by Sam Mendes as the best movie about WWI. I watched it that day. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
Armistice Day in France is a very important day in the French calendar. It is an occasion to remember the enormous sacrifices of the nation’s soldiers, which made it possible for the world to enjoy peace. Visiting France during Armistice Day will give you a unique experience of French patriotism and solemnity. You will witness how France acknowledges the importance of peace and mourns those who fought to preserve it. If you’re in France during Armistice Day, take the opportunity to stand on the Champs Elysées, or visit the memorials and participate in the sombre atmosphere of French history.
FAQ’s November 11 France
Is Everything Closed on Remembrance Day in France?
On Armistice Day in France, a public holiday, most major monuments and museums remain open. Offices, banks, schools, and the post office will be closed. On Remembrance Day in Paris, most shops will remain open, some having Sunday or holiday hours. Best to check before heading out!
Should I Go Early To the Champs Elysées on Armistice Day in Paris?
Yes! Armistice Day in France is a public holiday and the patriotic crowds line the Champs Elysées to watch the military procession and honour fallen soldiers. It is hard to get close to the Arc de Triomphe to see the ceremony, but it is broadcast on large screens that can be seen from a distance.
I hope you find this article helpful for celebrating Armistice Day in France.
Until next time,
Paris Travel Information
Planning Your Trip to Paris
Book your airline tickets with my favourite platform, Skyscanner.
Book a transfer from Charles de Gaulle or Orly airport with Welcome Pick Ups.
Reserve a car (not for Paris) but for a road trip in France
Reserve train tickets for further travels in Europe with Trainline (my go-to)
Read ahead on how to use the Paris métro.
Where To Stay In Paris?
November in Paris is low season but it is still highly recommended to book your accommodation well in advance.
Find other Boutique hotels in the Marais.
- Hôtel la Comtesse with an Eiffel Tower view
- Chouchou Hotel with an eclectic vibe
- The Hotel Bourg Tibourg in the Marais.
- Hôtel de Joséphine Bonaparte in the heart of the Marais
- Hôtel des Académies et des Arts in Saint-Germain des Prés (the left bank)
Prefer staying in an apartment? Here are some fabulous Paris apartments:
- Portrait of Splendour literally filled with portraits, in the Marais
- Joyau de Marais
- The Panthéon Pageantry