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The Poppy

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Today in Canada, we remember those who risked their lives and lost their lives at war. A few weeks before “Remembrance Day”, coinciding with the U.S. “Veterans Day” , we donate spare change (or hopefully more) to purchase a bright red, felt- like poppy. These are worn to signify that we have not forgotten the sacrifices of those who have served in the military.

The custom of wearing poppies evolved from the  poem, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. The poem which was published after his death, was recited every year in classrooms across Canada as we approached Nov.11th. Kindergarten crafts were all about poppies.

Who was John McCrae?

He was a Canadian poet. He was also a soldier during WW I.

Apparently, John McCrae was moved by the sight of a million poppies growing on the battlefields and cemeteries of Ypres, Belgium during the First World War. His words were penned as he sat in the back of an ambulance just north of Ypres, where he had recently buried his friend, Lieutenant Alex Helmer.

I have come to realize that some Americans are not familiar with this famous war poem or the symbolism of the poppy. Ironically, the idea of adorning poppies on our lapels originated from an American woman. Inspired by John McCrae’s poem, Moina Michael wore a silk poppy to symbolize remembrance of those who served in WW I.  She advocated the idea for two years in hopes of the poppy becoming a national commemorative symbol. Her efforts were not in vain and the poppy is worn proudly in many countries around the world.

The last surviving WW I veteran died in 2012. Her name was Florence Green from the U.K.

Many of our WW II veterans are still with us.

Today and always, let us honour their strength, survival and sacrifices.

 

 

In Flanders Fields

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.

by John McCrae, May 1915

 

 

 

Related Articles:  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McCrae

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/history/the-history-of-the-remembrance-poppy-9852348.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_last_surviving_World_War_I_veterans_by_country

 

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5 responses »

  1. Thanks for the knowledge titbit.

    Reply
  2. When I was growing up and in school, we had to memorize McRae’s poem. I always loved it. And we wore poppies on Nov. 11. I haven’t seen any poppies worn on Nov. 11 here in many years now.

    Reply
    • That is very interesting and sad….makes me wonder why it did not continue. I like the fact that it does not symbolize a specific country. Remembrance should not be about pride for one’s country as much as appreciation and gratitude for those who have served. Thanks for your comments. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Same rememberance day here in Australia. At 11am on 11/11 we stop for a minute to remember all those who gave of themselves in the war. Even the local pop radio station plays the revery, has some silence, then plays an appropriately sombre remembrance song. Lest we forget.

    Reply

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