Our native California Poppy is orange with touches of yellow
© Gerald & Buff Corsi
Artificial poppies in a wreath
© Andrew Dunn
A sea of ceramic poppies fills the moat of the Tower of London.
Will you be wearing a poppy on Veterans Day?
Many people around the world find wearing a poppy a respectful way to honor the service and sacrifice of others.
Poppies have been associated with Veterans Day since its first observance, as Armistice Day, in 1919. While often seen in the U.S. around Veterans Day, red poppies have become a prominent part of what’s become known as Remembrance Day in Canada, England, Australia and many of the Commonwealth nations around the world.
The poppy’s significance to today’s observance is a result of Canadian military physician John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. The poppy emblem was chosen because of the poppies that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I. And their red color seemed an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare.
Started By An American
Two days before the Armistice was declared at 11am on November 11th, 1918, an American woman named Moina Michael was working in the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ headquarters during its annual conference in New York City.
Inspired by McCrae’s poem, Michael purchased 25 silk poppies that she distributed to attendees of the Conference. The poppies were well received at the meeting, which prompted her to begin effort to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance. She succeeded in having the National American Legion Conference adopt it two years later.
The custom quickly spread to Europe and was especially embraced by the British Royal Legion and veterans groups throughout the British Commonwealth.
White Or Red
A small number of people choose to wear white poppies to indicate a preference to look forward to peace rather than backward at the sacrifice. Those who wear the white poppy have, since their introduction in the nineteen twenties, expressed their desire for peaceful alternatives to military action.
So wear a poppy— real or artificial in red, white or whatever color you choose— today as part of your observance of Veterans Day. You’ll be honoring a long tradition observed throughout the world.
It shouldn’t be too hard to find a flower. The California Poppy is our most common native poppy in the U.S. and has been spread by humans far outside its natural range of the western states.