The Red Poppy for Remembrance Day

Last week I found myself explaining what the red poppies people were wearing on their chests meant.

Remember

The poppies of Remembrance Day are such a part of life here in Canada that I was a little taken aback.  It took a moment for me to remember that I was speaking to someone from the US.

The red poppies we pin over our hearts  in early November have been around all my life.  The red poppies are a symbol of Remembrance Day here in Canada. Remembrance Day, like Armistice Day and Veterans Day, is November 11th. It’s a solemn day in Canada, and often the early November weather reflects that with grey skies, cold drizzle and cutting wind.  Canada has been celebrating Remembrance day since 1931 when the federal government amended the Armistice Day Act to rename and celebrate Remembrance Day on November 11th.

As we close in on Remembrance Day more and more people start wearing them pinned to jackets, sweaters, scarves, blouses and tee-shirts. They have become more and more stylised but they are still there to remind us of the poppies in Flanders Fields and other battlefields where so many soldiers died.

The red poppies themselves are made and sold by veterans as a fundraising tool to support veterans in Canada.

At 11am on November across the country, we stop for a moment of silence.  We do it at 11am as a nod to the 11am, November 11th signing of the Armistice of Compiègne between the Allies and Germany which signified an Allied victory and the end of hostilities on the western front in World War 1.

At 11am, people stop what they are doing, broadcast media comes to silence, and we stand or sit in silent thought. We stop. We remember. We mourn. We considering the sacrifices our soldiers then and now have made.  We recognize the luxury of living in a peaceful country.

In formal ceremonies, it is common for someone to read the poem In Flanders Field written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.

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.

A bugle will play The Last Post, marking the beginning of the moment of silence.  When I worked at BNR/Nortel, it was piped over the emergency PA system. One of the few times the system was actually used.

The silence is broken with the playing of The Rouse, a piece of music traditionally played after Reveille.

After The Rouse, people remove their poppies.  If you are at a ceremony at a war memorial, the poppies are often laid on the memorial, and life begins afresh.

So, with a red poppy pined to my chest, I say I’m proud to be Canadian. Honoured to recognize our soldiers and veterans. Delighted we live in a peaceful country, and happy we all take a moment to remember.

Happy Remembrance Day!

8 thoughts on “The Red Poppy for Remembrance Day

  • November 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm
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    Bonnie Massey It’s
    how I always remember it, though I don’t know if I was “told” this or
    it just evolved organically from the poppies being laid on the
    memorials. It always felt so powerful and freeing.

    Reply
  • November 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm
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    AlexaClarkIt feels–right!

    Reply
  • November 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm
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    I don’t think folks used to put their poppies on the cenotaph. Isn’t it a new thing? I like it though.

    Reply
  • November 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm
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    @Jean BradburyHi
    Jean, I remember doing it in Hampton when I was a little kid after we
    did the whole parade thing in our brownie outfits. Put them on the
    memorial beside the big wreaths etc. (and that was quite a LONG time
    ago )

    Reply
  • November 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm
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    AlexaClark This
    is from Wiki but I’m glad to know it is actually an old tradition. It’s
    very moving. “Following the installation of the Tomb of the Unknown
    Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in 2000, where the
    national Remembrance service is held, a new
    tradition formed spontaneously as attendees laid their poppies on the
    tomb at the end of the service. This tradition, while not part of the
    official program, has become widely practiced elsewhere in the country.”

    Reply
  • November 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm
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    @Jean Bradbury AlexaClark Apparently the Legion likes people to wear the poppies till midnight, but leaving them at a cenotaph is acceptable.

    Reply

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