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Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day with Poppy Flowers?
Today is Memorial Day. Today we take time to remember those who have served and lost their lives defending our country and other countries. One of the things you will see today is a Poppy flower or Poppy flower pin. What is the symbolism of the poppy flower and it’s association with Memorial Day?
Growing up I had seen the poppy flower pin that people would wear, but never understood its meaning or why it is associated with Memorial Day. The symbolism of the poppy comes from the poem “In Flanders Field” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae a Canadian Brigade Surgeon. He was tending the wounded and got a firsthand look of the devastation after the Germans released deadly chlorine gas in the war for the first time. 87,000 allied soldiers were killed, missing or wounded, one of those killed was his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. He wrote the poem from the perspective the fallen.
Moina Michael, a professor at the University of Georgia at the time the war broke out, volunteered at the YWCA and was inspired by McCrae’s Poem and wrote one of her own titled “ We Shall Keep the Faith”. She vowed to always wear a red poppy and found a fabric form of the bloom for her and her coworkers at a department store. She then started making and selling them to raise money to support returning veterans. In the mid 1920’s she was able to get the Georgia American legion branch to adopt the poppy as its symbol, eventually the National American Legion elected to use it as the official US National emblem of Remembrance .
In France, Madame Anna Guerin championed the symbolism of the poppy from the beginning. She had women, children and veterans help make and sell artificial poppies to help with the restoration of France after the war. Within a year she brought her campaign to England. The newly founded Royal British Legion sold millions of the silk flowers to help fund housing for the Great War veterans. The next year, a Poppy Factory was set up in Richmond England by Major George Howson and they employed disabled servicemen to help make the fabric and paper blooms.
Other countries eventually followed suit. Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Australia and New Zealand wear the flowers on November 11 for Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. The US however wears them to honor the fallen on Memorial Day in May every year. I hope you now understand a little more about the poppy and what it means on Memorial Day.
If you would like to know more detailed information about the symbolism of the poppy flower you should visit the link here: https://www.history.com/news/world-war-i-poppy-remembrance-symbol-veterans-day
“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
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.
We Shall Keep The Faith, by Moina Michael:
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Rhonda Pearson
Anchor: Rhonda Pearson
Produced by Vogt Media
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