100th Anniversary Sunset Ceremony

Our Ceremony

Our Corps will be holding a Sunset Ceremony at the Flag Pole beside the Memorial Chapel at 7:30 pm on the evening of Friday September 24th, 2004 in conjunction with Homecoming Weekend. Participants will include a Cadet Guard, the Pipes and Drums, and the Cadet Military Band of 142 St. Andrew's College Highland Cadet Corps. Parents, friends and the public are welcome.

The Traditions of the Sunset Ceremony

Simple duties of centuries ago, such as the closing of the town’s gate, troops returning to their quarters for the night, and the setting of the watch – all to the beat of the drum – have evolved into a beautiful ceremonial tradition reflecting a long military heritage.

The sunset ceremony is a combination of three distinct ceremonies that are part of Canada’s military history: the ancient ceremony of beating Retreat, the Tattoo, and the lowering of the National Flag of Canada. The ceremony is often preceded by other military displays and military music, and usually includes the firing of the ‘Feu-de-Joie.’

The Retreat
The origin of the beating of Retreat is obscure, and some historians believe that it dates back to the Crusades when it was the signal to cease fighting at sunset. Different drumbeats were used to convey orders, and these beats were well understood by every soldier. There were two retreats; one was the retreat at sundown; the other, a tactical manoeuvre in battle. Later, when the drums became confused with the sound of gunfire, bugles were added. Today’s ceremony echoes that of the 16
th Century. Most towns were fortified, with agricultural activity taking place outside the walls. At sunset, a call was sounded to summon the guard for the night and warn everyone that the gates would be closing.

This whole process was originally called La Retraite and later became the Retreat Call, which was also carried out in early Canadian settlements.

The Tattoo
n the days before permanent barracks, troops in garrison or on the march were billeted on the town in private houses or in inns and alehouses. In order to get the troops back to their billets for the night, drummers were sent through the streets to sound the ‘Tattoo.’ The word ‘tattoo’ is derived from the Dutch word ‘taptoe,’ which means, literally, to ‘close the tap.’

The Feu-de-joie
Following the Retreat and Tattoo, the night guard was mounted. Before the sentries were posted, the soldiers fired, or proved, their muskets to ensure that they were in good working condition and cleared of damp charges for the night. As armies became more modern and the tradition of mounting Guards became obsolete, the tradition of proving soldiers’ weapons was kept and incorporated into what is today called ‘Feu-de-Joie,’ or ‘Fire of Joy.’

You will see many of these traditional elements represented in our ceremony.