Last November 11th, Erica and I went to Grosebeek Canadian War Cemetery for a Canadian ceremony. It was an incredible experience, and we saw dozens of locals and Canadians in attendance.
This year, I travelled 3 hours east from Haarlem by bus, train and bicycle to visit Holten Canadian War Cemetery. November 11th is a meaningful day for Canadians, and it's a day we're used to sharing with others. But at this location, the atmosphere was lonely and solemn, which is why I am so glad I made the trip.
The solitude here on this day isn't because the Dutch don't recognize the sacrifice of the soldiers who died freeing the Netherlands. The Dutch celebrate these sacrifices at a different time: Remembrance of the Dead (Dodenherdenking) on May 4th and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) on May 5th.
Holten Canadian War Cemetery is the second largest Second World War cemetery in the Netherlands. There are 1,394 Commonwealth burials, most of which are Canadian.
I walked around in silence between 11:00 until 11:11 in the morning, then it felt appropriate to sing O'Canada. I sang in a few different places around the cemetery for those that rest here. I was inspired to participate in an act of remembrance, as I am each time I visit one of these cemeteries on Canadian soil in the Netherlands. Being present, wearing a poppy and singing our national anthem is my gift of thanks.