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Do You Know Why Many Wear Poppies On Veteran’s Day?
Posted on Thursday, November 06, 2014 by eNature
Artificial poppies in a wreath
Artificial poppies in a wreath
© Andrew Dunn
A sea of ceramic poppies fills the moat of the Tower of London.
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.

Why Poppies?

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.


The BBC's account of how the poppy came to be associated with Veterans Day »



I still remember all the words to Flanders Fields, the poem, as I had to memorize it at age 11.  I remember my teacher telling me to slow down a bit when I recited it in front of the class, and really understand the words.  I especially remember the line:  “In Flanders Fields, the poppies grow, between the crosses row on row.”  So poignant.  I am the daughter of a WWII disabled veteran, and know what military sacrifice means.  Thank goodness for all those veterans in all wars, who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Posted by Janet Adams on 11/11

Janet’s words are so true.  Many people do not know what military men sacrifice.  She does.  I wish the world could walk a step in a soldier’s shoes to truly understand our military men.  God bless all our soldiers, and a big salute and blessing to your Father, Janet…and to you for appreciating him so.

Posted by Bonnie Cheek on 11/11

From Wikipedia:

The red poppies that McCrae referred to had been associated with war since the Napoleonic Wars when a writer of that time first noted how the poppies grew over the graves of soldiers. The damage done to the landscape in Flanders during the battle greatly increased the lime content in the soil, leaving the poppy as one of the few plants able to grow in the region.

Posted by Pat Ayars on 11/11

Are you aware of the American troops that fought in North Russia in WWI, known as the Polar Bears.

Flanders Fields was adapted for them as follows:

“In Russia’s fields no poppies grow.

There no crosses row on row to mark the places where we lie.

No larks so gayly singing fly, as in the fields of Flanders.

We are the dead, short days ago, we fought beside you in the snow.

The poem goes on, very interesting story. I know, my father was one of them.



Posted by Cleo M Colburn on 11/11

Funny how poppies never caught on in the USA…every one wears them in Canada.  Perhaps WW1 was not such a big deal in the USA…Over 880,000 British and British empire troops lost…really hard to even comprehend that many for a war that really should not have started

Posted by john on 11/11

John,growing up, one always saw the board of paper poppies at the cash register at the drug store, dime store, at teller’s windows in banks, etc. I always wore one in the days leading up to Memorial Day and Armistice Day (as we called it then). I have discussed this with other we are “older” and they had the same experience. The poppies seemed to disappear after Nam. I was glad to see this article.

Janet, I, too, had to recite “In Flanders Field” and the line you reference always painted the cost/aftermath of war. It was the first poem which deeply touched me as a young grade school kid. My dad left for England in early 1942 and returned in the fall of ‘45. Kids whose fathers serve in war worry. The poem was very real to me. The poppies will always be a symbol of remembrance. Blessings and thanks to all who have served.

Posted by Nancy on 11/11
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