Saturday, November 11, 2006

Poppy Day

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


Anonymous BeckaJo said...

Americans do Poppies for Memorial Day, which is in May. That is the day that we remember our fallen soldiers.

Remembrance Day was re-named Veteran's Day at some point (in the sixties, I think) and now is the day we remember those who came home. I call my father early in the morning to tell him "Welcome home" - something he was not told when he came home from Veitnam.

Vets tend to cry when someone remembers them...

11/11/2006 10:32:00 a.m.  
Anonymous BeckaJo said...

Oops, sorry, I hit post too soon. It's sad to realize that people have begun to forget what the poppies mean. For Better or For Worse usually does a very sweet and poignant strip for these days, with the very good point that we should Never Forget.

11/11/2006 10:35:00 a.m.  
Anonymous laura said...

Lovely post, Mary. This year my toddler still thinks that poppies, with those shiny & pokey pins, are fun to play with, so I am hopeful that the next Nov 11 will be the one where I can introduce the meaning behind them, rather than hide mine away out of the zone of temptation.

beckajo, a genuine thanks for the lesson on memorial day/veteran's day! I think it's rather nice that Americans have allocated two days for remembering!

11/11/2006 12:15:00 p.m.  
Blogger Candace said...

What Beckajo said. I can always find someone selling poppy pins on Memorial Day. However, those little felty poppies in the pictures? Way better than the ones I've bought in the past.

11/11/2006 01:27:00 p.m.  
Blogger Perichoresis said...

I find I used to see poppies everywhere I went when I lived in Manitoba. However, since I moved to Quebec I've noticed a lot of nuances involving holidays.

One of these would be the lack of desire for family holidays such as Thanksgiving. That alone shocked me, nevermind I have seen maybe 2 people wearing poppies and not knowing where to find them myself. But there is the notion that a lot of them weren't treated well during wartimes.'s to remember the veterans who kept our nation free, and their provincial motto is "Je me souviens" (I remember)...

11/11/2006 01:28:00 p.m.  
Blogger Kristen said...

Thanks for that. Hannah came home talking about painting poppies for a veteran's day project, but she couldn't explain what it was about, what the significance was, etc. She sort of muttered, "Flander's Field" but couldn't tell us what that meant. (SIGH...blame the school? blame her? blame us? geez...) Anyway, thanks for enlightening me.

11/11/2006 02:44:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely post, we do have poppies here in the uk and have 2 mins silence in shops and offices but I bet most children or teenagers wouldnt be to sure of the meaning. Jenny in the uk

11/11/2006 03:14:00 p.m.  
Blogger Jenorama said...

I just linked to this on my blog-- I had just written briefly about it, and then I came and found this! Wonderful!

11/12/2006 12:38:00 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have a listen to the Remembrance podcast on iTunes or on the Royal British Legion blog. It's a good way to remember.

11/12/2006 12:54:00 p.m.  
Blogger Granny said...

We have paper poppies here sold by the Veteran's organizations.

No poppies in MO? Strange. They're all over the place here, almost like the Salvation Army bell ringers.

11/12/2006 02:26:00 p.m.  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

I'm familiar with Flanders Fields. There's a picture book I would read to my sixth graders. I remember giving out poppies as a kid, but it was for our Memorial Day, in May.

11/13/2006 07:14:00 a.m.  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Beckajo: Thanks for the clarification, though it seems from comments I've received from other Americans that even poppies on Memorial Day isn't quite as widespread as poppies in Canada. Curious.

This year's For Better or For Worse had an anti-war thrust to it. I liked it.

Laura: I suppose playing with shiny pokey things could teach a few lessons, too, but not the type you're looking for!

Candace: The felt-on-plastic are the ones I've known all my life, though I do remember a time when they had an extra green felt bit in the the centre, sitting on top of the black. I guess it's a cost-cutting thing.

perichoresis: Fascinating comment. I had no idea poppies were so thin on the ground there. I suspect the resentment over their treatment during the war was that they had to go at all. There was much more resistance to the war there, as the "English war", though of course, France was an occupied country, so it's not as cut and dried as all that.

During the memorial here, some eight or ten Quebecois youth wandered silentely through the crowds, wearing poppies and carrying a huge provincial flag. Not quite sure what their point was. Could have been "Quebecers are part of this, too", or could have been some sort of more negative political statement, or just adolescents saying "Look at me!!" No way to know.

Did your move involve a switch between rural and urban environments? I think there's a difference between how rural and urban Canadians celebrate the holidays, no matter where they live. If you moved from rural to urban (or vice versa) you'll see differences, but they may not be solely attributable to the French-English difference. (Just musing out loud here.)

Kristin: Speaking as a very loving parent, in these situations I generally blame the kid. You know, you just know, that in a class of 30 kids, (let's exclude the kids with genuine learning disabilities from our calculations here) at any given time, a few just won't be paying attention. Daydreaming, pouting, whatever... If 25 kids are learning something, that teacher's doing a fine job!

JennyAnonymous: It would depend on the age of the child you asked, of course, but I think most kids you asked would be able to choke out something about "remembering the soldier who died and that war is a sad thing." Perhaps I shall put this to the test this week!

Jenorama: Glad to be of assistance. :-)

Anonymous: Thanks. I can't comment yet, because I haven't gone to have a listen. I'll do that soon, promise!

Granny: LOL That's about as ubiquitous as the poppy-dispensers are here in the weeks prior to Remembrance Day: two or three each mall entrance, no matter where you go! Evidently the ubiquity of poppy-people varies by area down there.

MamacitaTina: You remember poppies as a kid, for Memorial Day. Is that just a memory, or do you have them now, where you live?

11/13/2006 08:12:00 a.m.  
Anonymous BeckaJo said...

I do agree with you...I'm hyper-aware of poppies and other remembrances as I belong to a military family...but it does seem there are fewer and fewer poppy sellers. (And forget-me-not sellers, which used to come out on Veteran's Day.) There's yellow ribbons everywhere, though.

I printed out the For Better or Worse strip and sent it to my brother, who is in Iraq for his third tour. He's asking the same question as April.

11/14/2006 12:24:00 a.m.  
Blogger Mary P. said...

BeckaJo: Yellow ribbons - Tony Orlando must be so proud. :-)

Third tour. He must be weary. (How long is "a tour"? Is it a specific time, or is it variable?)

11/14/2006 08:52:00 a.m.  
Anonymous BeckaJo said...

Tours vary depending on the duty - active combat duty is supposed to be six months, but America is shorthanded on soldiers and has been extending the terms. (I'm not sure if other countries are doing this, I hope not.) Mike's been in Iraq since 2003 with two shore leaves. He was briefly sent to Afghanistan in 2001. (Just long enough to miss the birth of his third child.) And years before that, straight out of boot camp, he served in the Persian Gulf War.

Mike made a choice to be a soldier, and the military has done a lot for him - they sent him to law school - but he doesn't like the war. I'm proud of my brother and proud of my country, but when even the soldiers are questioning the purpose of a war - why are we still there?

I just filled out a form to give a student a pass without completing the final - she's in the Reserves and ships out in three weeks. She's not even twenty-one. She's three years younger than me!

Sorry to hijack your comments, MaryP.; I get a little nuts about this issue. Our young people are dying, civilians have been the majority of the casualties in this 'war on terror' - how can this be the 'right thing to do'?

11/14/2006 10:59:00 a.m.  
Blogger Mary P. said...

I believe the was in Iraq was a bad idea from the get-go, and that it has been horrendously mismanaged along the way. (You'd probably find the new book, "State of Denial" an informative - and disturbing - read.) Afghanistan? I think there's a valid reason to be there.

"Civilians have been the majority of casualties". This is undeniably true, but, when you're dealing with terrorists, or any nation that doesn't have an official military, how can it be otherwise? There are no soldiers to fight. The terrorists use their own people as shields, hide in the livingrooms and bedrooms of ordinary people - what's a soldier to do? There has to be a way out of that loop, but I confess I don't know what it is.

11/14/2006 11:49:00 a.m.  

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