Since 2009 Service of Remembrance ceremonies has taken place across Canada the first Sunday in December. However, this year the services were cut back due to illness and financial reasons.
Hosted by Wreaths Across Canada the ceremonies were a way for Canadians to pay their respects to veterans, and the sacrifices they made, by laying wreaths on veterans’ graves during the holiday season. They take place in cemeteries across Canada.
The choice of dates is deliberate, with the intention of making the ceremony more of a celebration.
“The goal is to commemorate the joy of the holidays by the results of the service and dedication of all who have served in the military in Canada,” said Warrant Officer Frank Larabie (retired), Wreaths Across Canada.
Wreaths Across Canada is based on a program from the United States. Veteran Craig McPhee was inspired after he attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia. The following year, the first Wreaths Across Canada Service of Remembrance took place at the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John’s, NFLD.
In 2011, the inaugural National Service of Remembrance took place at the National Military Cemetery, which is located at the Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa.
To date, nearly 30,000 wreaths have been laid on Canadian military graves. “This is important to more than just veterans. It’s important to all the lives they have touched,” commented Larabie.
This past Christmas Wreaths Across Canada has had to temporarily cancel some of their Services of Remembrance.
“Unfortunately, we have been overwhelmed with financial issues this past year, illness amongst our Board of Directors and several vacant Board positions which have necessitated this cancellation,” Wreaths Across Canada stated.
However, they are working to repositioning themselves and reestablish the Services.
Part of that is exploring the idea of offering the Services of Remembrance in June or July, which they felt was especially fitting given the proximity of Canada Day. The intention is to make the Services more of a celebration.
Larabie commented on how the sacrifices of veterans have given Canadians many freedoms.
“It gives us the freedom to celebrate however we like,” said Larabie.
Should they change the date of the services, they are considering using laurels instead of wreaths to lay on the graves. There would be four laurel branches tied together with ribbon representing the Canadian Flag.
While they have had to cancel some Services of Remembrance, there are still Services taking place across Canada.
“We appeal to you to not give up as our intention is to return and hold our regular Service in 2019,” they stated.
For more information, visit Wreaths Across Canada’s website.