The History of the Poppy

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Last Friday saw the launch of the local annual Poppy Campaign, which runs every year from the last Friday in October until Nov 11th by Legions around the country to raise money for legion activities and to serve as a visible symbol of our indebtedness to those who have fallen in war and other military operations. The season begins with the presentation of the symbolic first poppy by the President of the Royal Canadian Legion to the current Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada and Patron of the Legion, a position currently held by David Johnston.

Diann Corfe organizes this year's Poppy campaign. Photo: Karen Graham.

Diann Corfe organizes this year’s Poppy campaign. Photo: Karen Graham.

The adoption of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance was triggered by the moving poem penned by then Major John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields”, and was initiated by Moina Michael, a member of the staff of the American Overseas YMCA during the last year of WWI. She described her reaction the McCrae’s poem and pledged to wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance and a reminder to “keep the faith with all who died.”   The red poppy was selected as it bloomed as a wildflower across the fields which witnessed some of the fiercest battles of World War L, and the red colour of the flower symbolized the blood spilled across these sites.

In 1921, the British Legion and the Canadian Great War Veterans Association (a predecessor of the Canadian Legion) adopted the poppy as their symbol of remembrance as well, and the first ‘Poppy Day’ in both countries occurred on 11 November 1921. In 1922, poppies sold in Canada were made in Vetcraft Red Cross workshops which were staffed by disabled soldiers, lending a deeper significance to the purchase of these emblems of respect and remembrance. Since its formation in 1925, The Canadian Legion (now the Royal Canadian Legion) has conducted the annual poppy campaign. Approximately 18 million poppies and 70,000 wreaths, crosses and sprays are distributed across Canada and overseas every year.

Fresh poppy wreaths set outside of the Bethany World War I and II Memorial. Photo: Sarah Sobanski.

Fresh poppy wreaths set outside of the Bethany World War I and II Memorial. Photo: Sarah Sobanski.

Expect to see veterans, cadets, Legion members and volunteers around the community in the coming days and be sure to continue this colourful tradition of respect and remembrance for those who have served and who continue to serve our great nation.

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