Why the Poppy Means Remembrance

Poppies have become a symbol of remembrance of those who died for America, thus being worn on Memorial Day, the day of remembrance for the US. (See the following blog post for a small history of Memorial Day.)

The bright red poppy is actually a weed and was known, variously, as the corn poppy, red poppy, corn rose and Flanders poppy (from the field it grew in). It became the inspiration for the poem, In Flanders Field, reprinted below. Poppy seeds only germinate when disturbed. Apparently, the war-torn, lime covered land, created ideal conditions for the poppies to grow and bloom.

The idea to wear poppies was inspired by an idea by Mona Michael, an American, in 1918. Michael was so impressed by John McCrae’s poem she decided she would wear a red poppy every day in remembrance of the sacrifice soldiers made.

Michael’s original design and idea for the poppy called for the poppy to be the color of the flags of the Allied forces, entwined around a torch. Sadly, that design didn’t prevail. In 1921, a French woman, Anna Guérin, began a campaign, too, using a single red poppy, and her concept immediately caught on.

Citizens of the US wear a poppy on Memorial Day in remembrance, whereas other Allied countries’ citizens wear theirs on November 11th, which is known as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day.

In Flanders Field by John McCrae

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. Short days ago
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 grow
In Flanders fields.

I compiled my information from the following websites: https://www.maritime-executive.com/features/the-poppy-a-symbol-of-memorial-day, https://www.history.com/news/world-war-i-poppy-remembrance-symbol-veterans-day, https://www.legion.org/poppyday/history.

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