Veterans Day is an annual American holiday honoring military veterans. A federal holiday, it is usually observed on November 11. However, if it occurs on a Sunday then the following Monday is designated for holiday leave, and if it occurs Saturday then either Saturday or Friday may be so designated.
It is also celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, falling on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.)
The holiday is commonly printed as Veteran’s Day or Veterans’ Day in calendars and advertisements. While these spellings are grammatically acceptable, the United States government has declared that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”
In 1953, an Emporia, Kansas shoe store owner named Al King had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who served in World War I. King had been actively involved with the American War Dads during World War II. He began a campaign to turn Armistice Day into “All” Veterans Day. The Emporia Chamber of Commerce took up the cause after determining that 90% of Emporia merchants as well as the Board of Education supported closing their doors on November 11, 1953, to honor veterans. With the help of then-U.S. Rep. Ed Rees, also from Emporia, a bill for the holiday was pushed through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954.
Congress amended this act on November 8, 1954, replacing “Armistice” with Veterans, and it has been known as Veterans Day since.
Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978 it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11 (with the exceptions described above). Since this change, there has been a trend against being closed on the holiday. It began with businesses (excluding banks) and in recent years some schools and local governments have also chosen to remain open.