The area of Cambridge where I live has the longest Canada day parade in Canada (according to local legend and some questionable internet statistics). I like that there are piles of people, almost exclusively wearing red and white, lining the streets in the hours before the parade. I walk a few blocks to the parade route, and along the way, there are gardens with the sesquicentennial tulips and red and white flags stuck in planters, and flagpoles flying the Maple Leaf. Its nice to walk along an feel the patriotic commitment that these people have made.
Outside Canada Day, though, there are considerably less demonstrable flag-wavers than on July 1. Those with reallyreal flag poles may fly the maple leaf, and you’re not going to tear out the tulips, but they’re mostly spent by July anyway. The two-page flag spread supplied by the Cambridge Times might stay in a window until recycling day. But really, that’s it.
On April 9, we (some of us) celebrate Vimy Ridge day. When we were on our way to Vimy Ridge for centenary celebrations a few years back, we drove through many little French villages between Lille, where we were staying, and Vimy Ridge. As we passed through these villages, many houses and businesses had Canadian flags decorating their buildings. One village in particular, Givenchy-en-Gohelle, was rife with red and white. Most of the houses were flying the Canadian flag, or had maple leaf bunting on their porches and balconies, or small flags hanging from trees or stuck into their gardens. As the caravans of buses drove through, there were residents on their porches and terraces, waving flags at us. Apparently there were more than 500 Canadian flags in Givenchy-en-Gohelle that spring. It was very moving.
Givenchy-en-Gohelle was severely damaged during the battle of Vimy Ridge, and it was on the front line during the battles of Arras. There were tunnels under the village, used by both German and British/Allied forces, so the village was quite literally completely surrounded by the fight. On April 13 ,1917, the 2nd Canadian Division liberated Givenchy-en-Gohelle. Casualties from the battles surrounding Givenchy-en-Gohelle, including the Battle of Vimy Ridge are buried in the nearby Canadian cemetery, which is tended by the residents of the village.
The people in these villages around Vimy Ridge celebrate the help and effort of Canadians in a humble, sincere showing of their gratitude. It was one of the most moving moments for me, in a trip rife with moments that kicked me hard in the feels. Despite the tinted glass, I waved back.
This year, may the gratitude that each of us feel for veterans and currently serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces be as freely given and openly communicated as those villages, particularly Givenchy-en-Gohelle in France.