Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors military veterans; that is, persons who served in the United States Armed Forces.

It coincides with other holidays celebrated throughout the world, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I, which formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. The United States previously observed Armistice Day. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

But what many people don’t know is the religious significance of November 11th.

November 11th is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours, one of the patron saints of soldiers. Saint Martin was a Roman soldier who laid down his arms to follow the peaceful way of Christ, and becoming a monk, dedicated his life to serving the needy.

Advent, like Lent, used to be a 40-day period of fasting called “Quadragesima Sancti Martini” (Saint Martin’s Lent). Because Saint Martin’s day fell the day before this fasting would begin, like Fat Tuesday for Lent, “Martinmas” as the day was commonly known, was a great day of feasting after the fall harvest and before Advent, and was a marked with major celebrations, traditionally starting at the 11th hour.

As was a centuries-old tradition in Europe, warring nations and parties who sought to end conflicts would sign their treaties on his feast day November 11 in Saint Martin’s honor and in preparation for Advent. (H/T Dr. Taylor Marshall)

In accordance with this tradition, the official armistice that ended “The Great War” or World War I, was signed on the feast of Saint Martin during the 11th hour. To remember the nearly 20 million people who died in World War I, nations began holding a yearly moment of silence and prayer at the 11th hour on November 11th. These remembrances eventually turned into what we know today as Veterans Day.

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