If you have walked around London in the last couple of days, you must have seen a lot of people wearing paper poppy pins on their coats. Men and women, old and young, celebrities, the Royal family – everyone wears them. And if you are not from Commonwealth country, you probably have no idea what is all the fuss about.
Emma from Finsbury, London noticed me starring at her’s and her friend’s pins. She kindly stopped and told me they are The Remembrance Poppies: “I wear them as a sign of support to everyone who used to serve or is still serving in the British Armed Forces, but also as a support to their families”.
Millions of poppies are made all year round, mostly by disabled former military members, and are sold by The Royal British Legion. This charity sells the poppies with no fixed price and the people are expected to wear them until the 11th of November (Remembrance Day) or the 2nd Sunday in November (The Remembrance Sunday).
This memorial day is observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember their soldiers who have died in the line of duty. The Remembrance Day recalls the end of hostilities of the WWI, which happened on the 11th of November in 1918. For the first time, my country Serbia will join in this year and observe The Remembrance Day with the rest of the world.
So, why poppies? Jon McCrae wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields” in 1915. Its opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow from the soldiers’ graves.
In 1918, American Moina Michael was inspired by the poem and she vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in the war. She campaigned for poppies to become national symbol for the remembrance. At the conference in the 1920, the National American Legion adopted her idea. The same year Anna E. Guérin created the artificial poppies people use today.
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.
Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net