Belonging to the Papaveraceae family, the poppy can be found in many shades of white, purple and red. However, when the red poppy comes to mind we often reflect on those we have lost to war. It is a symbol of consolation, remembrance and death. Placed upon our heroes tombstones for an eternal rest in peace.
Grew From Rubble
The Word War I battlefields from Southern Belgium to Northern France were torn- explosions shook the earth, eroding soil and lifting wild poppy seeds to the surface. Buildings filled with lime crumbling to the ground, combed with nitrogen from explosives created ideal growing conditions for fields of poppies. We remember this battlefield as Flanders Fields, where the poppies blow.
Inspired by a poem
In 1915, after losing a fellow soldier, Medical Officer John McCrae penned a poem only 13 lines long on a piece of scrap paper. This poem was published in a magazine that same year. For over 100 years now “In Flanders Fields” has been imprinted in our hearts. Each year recited and shared for generations to remember and reflect on the lives sacrificed for us to live in peace.
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.
Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
~ May 3, 1915
The Royal Canadian Legion
The poppy has been used since ancient times for it’s medical properties. Poppies contain small amounts of morphine and codeine. The poppy was given to patients by doctors to help relieve pain.
Given the symbol of sleep, peace and death: the meaning of death represented by the blood red color of the poppies petals. Sleep, represented by the opium (poppy tears) extracted as a sedative from poppy seeds. And peace, for external rest when placed on the tombstone of those lost.
We wear the poppy to honor our veterans and to show our pride. ‘”The Lapel Poppy” should be worn from the last Friday in October until November 11th for Remembrance Day. It is also encouraged to be worn at the funerals, memorials and anniversaries of veterans. To wear your poppy, respectfully place your poppy on your left lapel over your heart, unobstructed. When removing your poppy, it should be stored or discarded respectfully. It is tradition to place your poppy on a wreath following Remembrance Day services.
Each year in Canada you can purchase your “Lapel Poppy” from cadets outside most public shopping areas or inside most stores. The donation given to purchase your poppy is collected by the Royal Canadian Legion. Members of the Legion use these donations to help veterans with expenses for medical equipment, research, home visits, long term care and more.
Over time flowers have been used to represent significant moments in history. Below Gord shares with Jasmine two historical flowers created to represent moments in history for Canada. Watch below to learn the meaning behind the Canadian Liberator and the Canadian Celebration Tulips, and how you can plant your very own memorial garden.