Poppies, a symbol of Remembrance Day for 100 years
TORONTO – As Remembrance Day approaches, poppies are in full bloom as Canadians wear the little red flower in honor of those who fought for the country.
In November, Canadians also commemorate something else. The poppy marks the centennial as a symbol of remembrance in Canada. First adopted on July 6, 1921 after World War I, the poppy continues to be worn in honor of the millions of Canadians who have served and continue to serve Canada in times of war, conflict and peace.
Despite its long history, there are many fascinating facts about the flower that may not be familiar. Here are eight things you might not know about the poppy.
1. The use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance was inspired by a poem.
While many may be familiar with John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”, it was this poem that actually inspired the use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in Canada and the Commonwealth. McCrae, a lieutenant colonel from Guelph, Ont., Served as a medical officer during the First World War. He wrote the poem in May 1915, following the death of another soldier.
2. Poppies grew on the battlefields because of the rubble.
“In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow”, this is how the famous poem begins. But did you know that poppies grew on battlefields because of the remaining debris? Artillery bombardments during World War I left fragmented remains on the fields. The lime from the rubble was used as fertilizer for the poppies, allowing them to grow. As a result, the flowers have grown widely in Europe, especially in countries like France and Belgium. Once the poppies finished absorbing the lime, they started to disappear.
3. The poppy has long been the symbol of sleep and death.
According to Greek and Roman mythology, poppies were often placed on tombstones to represent eternal sleep. Some even believed that the vibrant red color guaranteed resurrection after death. Poppies were also discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamun during his burial around 1324 BC. The flowers appeared on jewelry like her necklace, as well as on furniture. In ancient Egypt, the poppy was a symbol of Osiris, the god of the dead.
4. Not all poppies are red.
In fact, they come in many colors like orange, yellow, pink, white and even blue.
5. Poppies are worn on the left side.
Whether on a lapel, collar or chest, poppies are worn on the left side. This is to keep it as close as possible to the heart.
6. Poppies can be worn at any time of the year.
According to Veterans Affairs Canada, poppies can be worn at commemorative events throughout the year, not just on Remembrance Day. The Royal Canadian Legion says poppies can also be worn at a veteran’s funeral, memorial services, and anniversaries of major battles, such as Vimy Ridge.
7. Poppies are used to make morphine.
Although the poppy seeds themselves do not contain opium, once harvested, it is possible that they will coat with the substance or absorb it. The milky latex contained in each unripe seed is the key ingredient which is then used to create morphine, a well-known pain reliever.
8. The poppy as a symbol of remembrance in Canada began with a French woman.
Inspired by McCrae’s famous poem, it was a woman named Madame Anna Guerin who persuaded the then Great War Veterans Association to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. The French Poppy Lady herself founded a charity to help rebuild parts of France destroyed by WWI. She made fabric poppies and sold them as a way to raise funds for the needs of veterans and those most affected by the war. The idea was adopted in Canada on July 6, 1921.