Each year right before the winter holidays, another celebration is observed to honor living veterans who served their country and those who died doing so, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Veterans Day began as Armistice Day after President Woodrow Wilson called for celebration of the temporary pause of hostilities between the Allied forces and Germany during World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
Hence why Veterans Day, as it has become known, is always celebrated on Nov. 11, regardless of what day of the week it falls on.
“Veterans Day honors all of those who have served the country in war or peace — dead or alive — although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices,” according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
This year, the 11th falls on a Saturday, which means the rules change — slightly — to give federal employees paid time off.
Friday, Nov. 10, will be the official observed holiday for the purposes of closing most government offices, according to the White House’s Office of Personnel Management, which publishes the holiday schedule each year.
Something similar happened last year when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, thereby making the following Monday a holiday “in lieu of” the actual day.
Today, Veterans Day is celebrated nationwide and especially in Washington, D.C., where the Department of Defense is headquartered not far from the pristine white grave markers of more than 500,000 service members at Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac river in Virginia.
The first celebration using the term “Veterans Day” happened in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947, after Congress declared it an official holiday in 1938. Initially, Armistice Day was coined to reflect that World War I was the “war to end all wars.”
Of course, there have been dozens of violent conflicts since, some contained to certain countries or regions, and others involving an international coalition of armies. Thus, Congress amended the commemoration in 1954 to reflect a day that would pay tribute to American veterans of all wars.
There are 11 federal holidays in which civil servants are paid even if they have the day off. The next one is Thanksgiving on Nov. 23.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Oct. 13 to add context about Veterans Day from the Department of Defense and Encyclopedia Britannica.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.