Remembrance Day ceremonies will take place this coming week and there won’t be a lapel, jacket, or blouse that is not graced with the red flower. Poppies are worn to commemorate fallen soldiers dating back to the First World War up to today.
Remembrance Day period runs from the last Friday in October to the end of the day on Nov. 11th. In 2014 more than 19 million poppies were sold according to Bill Maxwell, secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy and Remembrance Committee as reported in The Toronto Star.
Poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death: Sleep because the opium extracted from them is a sedative, and death because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead.
The tradition of wearing a poppy came to be after the devastation and destruction of World War I. The soil composition changed dramatically due to the absorption of lime and poppies began to flourish in Flanders where they previously did not grow.
The bright red flowers spread across the fields and decorated the graves of the soldiers laid to rest; thus, they came to be associated with respectful remembrance of the fallen.
There are some customs surrounding the tradition. As time passed the idea was that you were to bring the poppy to the gravesite of the soldier and leave it. This is why it is important not to wear a poppy after November 11th, unless attending ceremonies to honor veterans, such as funerals.
Placing poppies at a memorial for veterans at the end of Nov. 11th is a particularly respectful way to dispose of your poppy. Reusing them next year is not.
According to the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy manual, it is not considered acceptable to wear a decorative pin through the black center of the poppy, although the manual remains flexible in regards to Canadian flag pins.
Poppies are to be worn on the left-hand side of the body over top of the heart.
Maxwell stated that most people wear just one poppy, but Queen Elizabeth II routinely wears several poppies when honoring the fallen veterans. Sometimes people wear more than one because they want to honor several countries or several individuals.