The annual candlelight tribute ceremony held to honour veterans who fought in the Second World War took place last week at the Oliver Cemetery.
Although it is usually held on the first Friday of every May, the event was postponed to May 26 due to heavy rain.
Attendees at the tribute included the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 197) and its colour party, the Oliver Ambassador hopefuls, students and teachers from Oliver Elementary School, members of the Police and Fire department, other dignitaries, and the 232 Bighorn Squadron Air Cadets.
The ceremony started with the national anthem and an opening prayer, and then a brief history of the ceremony and its origins. The ceremony marks the sacrifice of Canadian troops fighting in Western Europe and liberating the Netherlands after German troops had occupied the area and limited access to necessities such as food and water.
Fifty years later, in 1995 Dutch children in the Netherlands laid candles on Canadian soldiers’ graves in their memory. The tradition has since carried on as an international tradition to honour Canada’s role in the liberation of Holland.
In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered the future Queen Juliana and her family for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The Netherlands continues to send 20,000 bulbs to Canada each year (10,000 from the Royal Family and 10,000 from the Dutch Bulb Growers Association).
Legion members and cadets lit candles, while students from Oliver Elementary paired up with other cadets from the 232 Bighorn squadron to place red candles on the graves of veterans and to honour their bravery and sacrifice. Cadets also saluted after placing their candles, and students would repeat the gesture or say the soldiers’ names to show respect to those who have fallen.
To end the ceremony, participants sang God Save the King, said a prayer for those who had fallen, and once again reflected on the importance of the event. At the end of the ceremony the Oliver Cemetery was lit up with the glow of the red candles, rekindling the memory of those who fought against oppression in World War II.
Virtri Bakshi is a work study student from Osoyoos Secondary School.