Memorial Poppies

In the month of November, paper and silk poppies can be seen adorning collars and lapels in the UK and in the United States. November 11th is Veteran’s Day in the US, and is also the date that WWI officially ended. Poppy wearing and sales usually peak around this time.

The tradition of wearing the red poppy dates back to 1918 at the end of WWI. American professor Moina Michaels, who was an overseas war secretary, pledged to wear a red poppy every day as a sign of commemoration for the lives lost in WWI, inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae. She began selling the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy in 1918, and made it her personal mission to make the poppy an emblem of memorial for the Great War. In 1920, the American Legion officially recognized the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy as the U.S. National Emblem of Remembrance.

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Since then, groups of veterans around the world have been selling poppies to raise money for veteran’s causes. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) embraced the Buddy Poppy as their official memorial flower and have been distributing them around the world since 1923, and disabled veterans make all the poppies they hand out. Memorial poppies are more common in the United Kingdom, where they are sold on street corners, in subway stations, and at newsstands for the Poppy Appeal, which benefits the British Armed Forces veterans and families.

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No matter where you buy a memorial poppy, they are always to be worn with respect. In Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion suggests wearing the poppy on the left lapel, as close to the heart as possible. The Royal British Legion says that there is no wrong way to wear a memorial poppy, and the only criteria for wearing one is to wear it with pride and remembrance. The most common way to wear a poppy is on the left collar or lapel.

Whatever way you decide to wear your poppy, just remember what it stands for and wear with respect and honor.

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