Red poppies and Remembrance Day

Red poppies and Remembrance Day

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent marking the end of World War I in 1918. Originally designated as “Armistice Day,” it was changed to “Remembrance Day” in the U.K. in 1931, and “Veterans Day” in the U.S. in 1954. Although the name has changed, it still signifies the same thing — honoring those who have donned a military uniform.

The red poppy

During the month of November, bright red poppies appear on jacket lapels, pins and even on the front grill of cars around the U.K. In the States, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) often solicit donations in exchange for a red poppy. But where does this stem from? In May 1915, Canadian surgeon John McRae wrote a poem in memoriam to his fallen brothers at the Second Battle of Ypres. The opening stanza, “In Flanders Field, the poppies blow…” was inspired by the crimson poppies surrounding the dead on the battlefield. The wild red flower is indigenous to Europe and grows best in uprooted or disturbed soil. In the spring, these scarlet poppies create vibrant carpets of red along the hillsides and fields of Europe.  

Remembrance Day

In the U.K., Remembrance Day is a two-fold affair. Remembrance Sunday is held throughout the country on the Sunday nearest to Nov. 11. Towns and cities often host services and/or somber parades where armed forces representatives (including those from visiting U.S. forces), civic leaders and other organizations lay a red poppy wreath at the base of a memorial. On Nov. 11, a two-minute silence is observed at 11 a.m. to honor those who have served and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. 

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