Happy November 11!

You’ve probably let this national holiday go by unobserved year after year, maybe feeling a little guilty for not celebrating, perhaps puzzled because there’s a big parade snarling traffic, even perplexed that sometimes you’ve been given a paid holiday off – other times not.

Just like the Fourth of July and Christmas, this official nationwide holiday doesn’t shift annually to the nearest Monday like Memorial Day, Labor Day and Presidents Day. Instead, it always falls on the eleventh day of the eleventh month – commemorating an incredible event that occurred about a century ago at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour.

But why should we celebrate November 11?

Because it’s the birthday of the great Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky? Of World War II’s General George S. Patton? Or author Kurt Vonnegut, and Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Demi Moore and Jonathan Winters! No, and neither do we celebrate it merely because it’s the birthday of notorious gangster Lucky Luciano, traitorous-spy Alger Hiss and California politician Barbara Boxer.

A Special Day in Refrigeration

A search of the U.S. Patent Office records would tell you November 11 is the day in history that the great physicist Albert Einstein filed his design for kitchen refrigerators.

That’s right. He’s better known for developing the general theory of relativity – E=mc2, one of the pillars of modern physics. However, if you’ve ever owned a propane-powered icebox, you’ll be surprised that it was probably a Einstein-Szilard refrigerator jointly invented in 1926 by Albert Einstein and his student Leó Szilárd and patented in the United States on November 11, 1930 – U.S. Patent 1,781,541.

However, November 11 is not internationally celebrated as Refrigerator Day.

Nor is it …

No, it’s not a national holiday because on November 11, 1620, the Mayflower Compact calling for "just and equal laws" and self-government was signed by the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower just before they landed in what is now Provincetown on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Nor because on November 11, 1889, the State of Washington was admitted as the 42nd state of the Union. Nor because in 1926 the United States Numbered Highway System was established, giving us such famous cross-country highways as U.S. Route 66.

Sports fans may or may not know that on this date in 1868 the New York Athletic Club held the first recorded amateur track and field meet indoors or that in 1946 the New York Knicks played their first game at Madison Square Garden. Or that in 1997 Roger Clemens of the Toronto Blue Jays became the third major league player to win the Cy Young Award four times

A Special Day

Yes, it was on November 11, 1938 that Kate Smith first sang Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" on network radio. And it is on this date in 1981 that stuntman Dan Goodwin scaled the outside of Chicago’s 100-story John Hancock Center in six hours – and was promptly arrested. Following his example in 1998, Jay Cochrane set a record for the longest blindfolded skywalk. He strolled 600 feet on a tightrope in Las Vegas strung between the towers of the Flamingo Hotel.

And, no, this is not a national holiday because in 1675 Gottfried Leibniz demonstrated integral calculus for the first time to find the area under the graph of y = ƒ(x).

No Apostrophe

No, the reason we celebrate is because it’s Veterans Day in the United States. Note the lack of an apostrophe. According to the U.S. government, it is not Veteran’s Day nor Veterans’ Day, but instead Veterans Day – although it is often written incorrectly.

It’s Armistice Day in New Zealand, France, Belgium and Serbia. It’s Remembrance Day throughout the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, including Australia and Canada.

When it was first observed, many people worldwide observed a moment of silence at 11 a.m. local time each year to honor their nation’s soldiers who fought in what was first known as The Great War, then later came to be called World War II

The War to End All Wars

World War I ended officially at the 11th minute of the 11th hours on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Fighting came to an end with the signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany. The authors of the surrender documents declared that the conflict had been the “War to End All Wars” – and that everlasting world peace would follow.