Wherever we are, we should never forget to honour the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve our countries. Today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, millions paused to observe two minutes of silence.
Most Canadians proudly wear a poppy for a week or so before November 11th to show their respect for veterans. Here’s an explanation of how the poppy came to be such a strong symbol of remembrance, from the Canoe.ca website.
Why the Poppy?
Today, fields of brilliant poppies still grow in France.
A writer first made the connection between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that fields that were barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended.
During the tremendous bombardments of the First World War the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing ‘popaver rhoeas’ to thrive. When the war ended the lime was quickly absorbed, and the poppy began to disappear again.
After John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields was published in 1915 the poppy became a popular symbol for soldiers who died in battle.
Three years later an American, Moina Michael, was working in a New York City YMCA canteen when she started wearing a poppy in memory of the millions who died on the battlefield.
During a 1920 visit to the United States a French woman, Madame Guerin, learned of the custom. On her return to France she decided to use handmade poppies to raise money for the destitute children in war-torn areas of the country. In November, 1921, the first poppies were distributed in Canada.
Thanks to the millions of people who wear a poppy each November, the symbolism of this little red plant has never died.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders Fields.
Wearing a poppy for Remembrance Day is a longstanding custom in Canada. All the money collected from donations for poppies goes to aiding programs for veterans and their families. Are there different customs observed in your country for November 11th?
Kitt Crescendo says
Veterans Day is often spent one of two ways in the US. Either friend and families get together for cook outs and socializing or loved ones who served and are no longer with us are visited at their final resting places.
We are in the States right now, Kitt, and I have been so touched by the many, many ways I see this day recognized here.
Kitt Crescendo says
I’m so glad!
Louise Behiel says
lovely post, Pat. thanks for the reminder of the meaning behind the poppy
And isn’t it nice to see so many young people wearing them? Since Remembrance Day stopped being a national holiday, the schools have developed very meaningful programs around November 11th.
In Malta very few people wear poppies, but they also have so many different battles that they “celebrate” throughout the year.
That sounds a little strange. I’m going to have to look up Malta’s embattled history!