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Lesson Transcript

If you know French history well, you might know that November 11, 1918, is an important date for French people. In fact, it’s a public holiday. This is the date of the armistice, a convention signed by several governments in order to stop combat between their armies. It marked the end of the First World War, or in French, La Première Guerre Mondiale. In this lesson, we’ll learn why the French celebrate the armistice of November 11, 1918.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
What was the nickname of French soldiers during the First World War?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
The First World War was a military conflict that mostly took place in Europe between 1914 and 1918. It was a traumatic war for France because it was the most heavily affected country, and by the end 1.4 million people were dead. It ended when the English, French, and Germans signed the armistice of November 11, 1918.
On each November 11, the President of the French Republic conducts a ritual to commemorate the armistice. He lays a tricolored sheaf in front of the tomb of Georges Clémenceau as a symbol of victory in the Great War. Then, escorted by the Cavalry of the Republican Guard, he returns via the Champs-Élysées and reviews the troops on Charles-de-Gaulle Square. Finally, he engages in private prayer in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the “Triumphal Arch,” or in French, Arc de Triomphe.
The last French soldier who fought during world war I, Lazare Ponticelli, died on January 20, 2008, at the age of 110. After his death, it was decided that November 11 should no longer be a commemoration of the soldiers who fought in the First World War, but rather a commemoration of all French soldiers who have died in service.
Small ceremonies are organized each year in French cities and towns. Usually there will be music performances and French people can go and watch these concerts, which are generally free.
During this public holiday, the President of the Republic wears a blue flower called Bleuet de France pinned to his buttonhole. Some French people also choose to wear it. This flower symbolizes the support and the solidarity of France with its veterans, widows, and orphans.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question!
The French soldiers from the First World War were called poilus. At the time, the word poilu meant somebody who was courageous and manly. The nickname poilu was a nod to the soldiers’ bravery and recklessness.
How was this lesson? Did you learn some interesting things?
In your country, do you have a holiday related to war?
Please leave a comment telling us at FrenchPod101.com, and we’ll see you next time!