Poppies Blow Between the Crosses

Today is Veterans Day in the United States—a day reserved for celebrating and honoring our soldiers. Across the world, it is also celebrated as Remembrance Day, honoring those passed.

The symbol for remembrance and honor is universal.  I have proudly worn the Remembrance Poppy on my lapel and know what it stands for, but haven’t known what it stems from.

Poppy painting by Georgia O’Keeffe

The flower itself is gorgeous, and in 1918, Moina Michael wore a silk version of the poppy pinned to her coat at the Overseas War Secretaries’ Conference. Inspired by the World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields” by John MaCrae, she distributed 25 of them that day.

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.

In 1920, Moina Michael campaigned to have the poppy adopted as the American national symbol of remembrance. The style of the Remembrance Poppy varies with each country that honors it. Canadian Remembrance Poppies are two pieces of molded plastic, while the United Kingdom’s are paper, and in England and Northern Ireland, the poppy has two red petals with a green leaf. The U.S. Remembrance Poppy is made of crepe paper, and we often wear ours on Memorial Day as well.

  1. Terry Steinmetz says:

    Thank you for the history of the poppy for Veterans Day. I’ve always loved the poem, “In Flanders Field.” I learned it as a child to recite on Memorial Day. It always moves me. Let’s always remember those who lost their lives so that we can be free. You see, freedom doesn’t come free!

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