Tomorrow, 9 May, is a significant date for at least two reasons:
St George’s Day, Remembrance Day and St David’s Day may be more familiar to you but Europe Day is a similar commemorative ritual designed to forge a sense of historical memory and spatial identity. In the same way that nation-states are symbolised through cultural icons (flags, anthems, maps and histories), a united Europe is evoked through similar icons and rituals. May 9 is symbolic as part of the historical narrative of Europe for it was this day in 1950 that Robert Schuman presented his proposal for the creation of what is now the European Union. Last year I witnessed Europe Day events in the French city of Toulouse; national flags, stalls selling food and products from all over Europe, and generally showcasing the diversity that comprises the European unity. As part of this commemorative day in Brussels, European institutions including the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the Commission, and the Economic and Social Committee will be opening their doors to visitors.
L’anniversaire d’la Libératiaon (the anniversary of the Liberation (translated from Guernesiaise)), the other event marked on this day is more personal to me. Liberation Day in Guernsey commemorates the end of Occupation by German Forces at the end of the Second World War. In 1945, 8 May, Winston Churchill announced via a radio broadcast:
Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight to-night, but in the interests of saving lives the “Cease fire” began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed to-day.
At dawn on 9 May, the Nazi soldiers, who had been occupying the Island since summer of 1940, surrendered unconditionally and left the Island by ship. Scenes of celebration filled the streets of St Peter Port. Today, commemoration and celebration run side by side as the Island hosts a range of events from church services to a cavalcade of old military vehicles and floats. The day usually ends with a spectacular firework display over the harbour.
Europe Day and Liberation Day developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and a time when a sense of freedom was lost to many people. For European citizens and Guernsey persons alike, these commemorative days serve to remind us how precious those regained freedoms can be.