It's Remembrance Day, of course, the day we commemorate the losses of life in the First and Second World Wars, but to the kids, it's "Poppy Day". Poppy day, because everyone wears poppies in the days leading up to the Remembrance Day services, and, here in Ottawa, many people then leave their poppies atop the Tomb of the Unknown Solder after the service at the War Memorial downtown.
"Everyone", I thought, and honestly believed. Everyone whose countries fought in the world wars, at any rate, so I was surprised when Jen asked about the poppies she's seeing everywhere. A quick google check taught me that Britain, Australia, France, and Belgium do. There are possibly more. But not, so it seems, in the states.
This is pretty funny, since it was an American who first wore a poppy.
In 1915, John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving in France wrote the poem, In Flander's Fields. (Which all Canadian school children hear each and every year at Remembrance Day assemblies in their schools.)
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.
McCrae was to die in France in 1918. Moina Michael, a young America woman from Georgia read the poem and, in 1918, decided to wear a poppy year-round in honour of the war dead.
Two years later, Ms. Michael bumped into a French woman, Mme. Guerin, who, apparently, was quite the mover and the shaker. She saw the poppy and decided it was the perfect symbol to use to raise funds for war orphans.
In 1921, Field-Marshall Haig approved Poppy Day appeal to raise money for disabled veterans. The same year, Mme. Guerin convinced Canadians to start selling poppies here, too.
Round the world the symbolic poppies rippled.
Poppy Day, Remembrance Day - the day we wear a blood-red flower and think of the sacrifice of brave men and women, and treasure our freedom.
© 2006, Mary P