image: Wikimedia commons (link).
Those who lived through the unspeakable devastation of World War I set aside the date of November 11 as a day to promote peace and "friendly relations with all other peoples."
The day was commemorated as Armistice Day, the word "armistice" being composed of two Latin words meaning "weapons" and "to stop" -- thus, the cessation of armed hostilities.
The word solstice derives from the same Latin word: sistere, "to stop." Solstice refers to the two points of the year at which the sun's progress northward or southward along the eastern and western horizons as it rises and sets can be seen to stop and pause prior to turning back around and going the other direction.
The ancient wisdom contained in the collective myths, scriptures, and sacred stories of the human race all use the cycles of sun between the solstices as part of a deep metaphor relating to the human soul and the experience of incarnation, and the goal of calling forth and elevating the invisible divine aspect in ourselves and others (blessing) as opposed to denying it and debasing it and reducing ourselves or others to objects and ultimately to mere matter (cursing).
Their metaphorical portrayal of the players from the heavenly sphere in the form of human men and women works to convey, among other profound messages, that each and every person reflects and embodies the infinite heavens, that each one is in fact a little universe -- a microcosm -- of infinite value and dignity, and that the act of debasing or destroying another human being through violence will ultimately damage the one who engages in it.
Simone Weil made this exact argument, based upon her inspired reading of the ancient text of the Iliad, in her famous essay "The Iliad, or 'The Poem of Force'" (1940).
In the United States, following the "cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far-reaching war in human annals" (World War I), both houses of Congress declared that "it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations."
Unfortunately, if you look up the word "armistice" in the dictionary you will see that it is usually used to mean a temporary truce of some sort, which is what the end of World War I turned out to be.
Many have also argued that the original intent of the day that was set aside -- by those who had endured the loss of so many beloved friends and family members during World War I -- with the hope that people everywhere would use the day to promote peace, good will, mutual understanding, and friendly relations has (at least in the United States) been somewhat forgotten.
When, following the cease-fire in Korea, the name of the day was changed from "Armistice Day" to "Veteran's Day" in the US, based on the argument that "Armistice" seemed to refer only to the end of World War I, a subtle difference was introduced.
The original declarations said nothing about honoring the veterans of World War I: the original statements declaring the importance of remembering November 11 were entirely focused on making the day about furthering peace, good will, and mutual understanding, based upon the unspeakable carnage which they referred to right in their opening line.
This does not mean those people who had lived through World War I were being disrespectful to veterans -- but the focus was on something completely different than what has come to be the focus today.
Here is a link to a page from a group called Veterans for Peace calling for a return to the original focus of Armistice Day as a day on which to promote peace, good will, mutual understanding, and "friendly relations with all other peoples."