Visit Canada in early November and you will see many people wearing red poppies, the symbol of Remembrance Day.
Remembrance Day is celebrated throughout Canadian cities, towns and villages with parades and ceremonies at local war memorials. On November 11th, at 11:00 am the country is silent.
The time and date commemorate the armistice (peace agreement) that took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 – ending World War I.
In the warm spring of 1915, the red field poppy was one of the first plants that began to grow in Belgium and France in parts of the front lines. John McCrae, Canadian physician, soldier and poet, wrote In Flanders Fields, which has become the most well-known poem of the war. The poem is believed to be inspired by the death of John’s close friend and the contrast of the vibrant red poppies popping up amongst the graves of soldiers.
After reading this poem, Moina Belle Michael, an American woman, vowed to keep the faith and always wear a red poppy in remembrance. She embarked on a long and tireless campaign to have the poppy adopted as a national memorial symbol in the United States. Finally, on September 29, 1920, the National American Legion agreed on the use of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy as the national emblem of Remembrance in the USA.
Another woman, Madame Anna Guérin, founder of the “American and French Children’s League” organized French women, children and war veterans to make poppies out of cloth. The goal was to help restore the war-torn regions of France using the proceeds from the sale of the poppies. In 1921, Anna introduced the idea to all countries who were allied with France during World War I – Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. On July 5, 1921, Canada adopted the poppy as its national flower of Remembrance.
From 1922 disabled Canadian war veterans made the lapel poppies that were sold in Canada. Since 1966 the operation was moved to Veterans’ Affairs Canada. In recent years the Royal Canadian Legion has taken over the task of producing the poppies for Remembrance Day.
When to Wear the Poppy
Some people believe the poppy should only be worn from eleven days before November 11th. Others believe you should only wear the poppy on Remembrance Day. According to Veterans Affairs Canada, the Lapel Poppy can be worn every day of the Poppy Campaign which starts on the last Friday in October.
Many people place their poppy on a wreath or at the base of the cenotaph or memorial as a sign of respect at the end of the ceremony.
How to Wear the Lapel Poppy
The suggested way to wear the poppy is to place it on the left-side lapel – as close as possible to your heart.
Poppies are distributed every year by The Royal Canadian Legion for donations. Donations are used to support veterans and their families – and to ensure we never forget the sacrifices they have made.