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