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.

Brief, Interesting History of Memorial Day

Originally, Memorial Day started out with little fanfare when, after the Civil War, many areas began paying tribute to the 600,000 plus fallen soldiers. (More lives were lost in the Civil War than any other American conflict.) Initially, it was known as Decoration Day. Women of the South began the tradition of placing flowers on the graves of their fallen. In 1868, not long after these impromptu tributes, General John Logan proclaimed the 30th of May to be the day of commemoration.

General Logan served in the Mexican-American War and was a general in the Union Army. In addition to being a state senator, US Congressman and US Senator, he was the head of an organization for Union Civil War veterans. His efforts to commemorate fallen soldiers lead many to believe his movement makes him the most prominent figure among those most responsible for Memorial Day being recognized as an official holiday.

Many people place flowers on the graves of the fallen soldiers. In fact, there is a small controversy regarding why the date for Memorial Day was chosen for May 30th. One faction believes it to be because there had been no battle on that date, another believes it to be because it is the optimal time for flowers to be blooming.

Northern states quickly picked up the tradition, and by 1890 all were paying tribute to their fallen on May 30th. However, the Southern states held their honors on different days.

Congress enacted the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, making Memorial Day the last Monday in May in order to allow for a three-day weekend. The act went into effect in 1971, and Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday. It is now celebrated nationwide on the last Monday in May.

(Information compiled from the History Channel website and Wikipedia)

Short History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day originally began with little fanfare after the Civil War when many areas began paying tribute to the more than 600,000 fallen soldiers. Initially, it was known as Decoration Day. Women of the South began a tradition of placing flowers on the graves of their fallen. In 1868, not long after these impromptu tributes, General John Logan proclaimed the 30th of May to be the day of commemoration.

General Logan served in the Mexican-American War and was a general in the Union Army. In addition to being a state senator, US Congressman and US Senator, he was the head of an organization for Union Civil War veterans. His efforts to commemorate fallen soldiers lead many to believe his movement makes him the most prominent figure in Memorial Day being recognized as an official holiday.

Northern states quickly picked up the tradition, and by 1890 all were paying tribute to their fallen on May 30th. However, the Southern states held their honors on different days.

Congress enacted the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, making Memorial Day the last Monday in May in order to allow for a three-day weekend. The act went into effect in 1971, and Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday. It is now celebrated nationwide on the last Monday in May.