top of page

What's with the red poppy flowers on Memorial Day?

The red poppy flower is undeniably one of the most beloved wildflowers globally. It boasts a small yet striking size of 12 to 14 inches in height and 2 to 3 inches in width. Although it’s originally from Eurasia and North Africa, its presence in Central Europe has earned it widespread recognition.


Symbol of Remembrance


The red poppy flower has long been associated with various meanings, including consolation, remembrance, and death. Historically, poppies were often used as a symbol of eternal sleep, with the flower being placed on tombstones to represent this idea. Today, poppies hold significant meaning, particularly as a symbol of remembrance for those who have died in military service. Whether used to represent peace, death, or simply sleep, the poppy remains a powerful symbol with a rich history and global significance.


Fallen Soldiers Bring Hope


In the early 19th century, the land was left desolate, arid, and infertile after the Napoleonic wars. However, red poppy flowers miraculously grew around the bodies of the fallen soldiers, symbolizing hope and peace. The poppy’s significance was that the sacrifice of soldiers’ lives was for the greater good. Similarly, when World War 1 broke out in 1914, the fields of Northern France were again filled with fighting. After the end of the war, the only plant that regrew in the region was the red poppy flower.


Cultural Significance


The cultural significance of poppies lies in their promise of resurrection. Among the various colors of poppies, the red ones hold solid symbolic value as a reminder of past events. This is attributed to the efforts of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a soldier, and poet who served in World War 1. McCrae’s war memorial poem “In Flanders Fields” gained immense popularity and was instrumental in establishing the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance. Another notable figure in this regard is American professor Moina Michael, who championed the cause of using poppies to honor fallen soldiers.


McCrae’s famous poem has become a defining moment in war remembrance, referencing the red poppies that grew on the graves of fallen soldiers. This poignant image has come to represent the bravery and sacrifice of these individuals. Moina Michael’s response poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” following the end of World War 1 in 1918, solidified the symbolism of the red poppy as a year-round tribute to fallen soldiers. This enduring symbol serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives to defend our freedoms.


The red poppy flower has stood the test of time as a powerful symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers. Even 100 years after the end of World War 1, people across the globe continue to honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for their country by wearing this iconic symbol on November 11th. From the United Kingdom to Canada to New Zealand, millions of people unite in remembrance on this day, paying tribute to the bravery and selflessness of those who fought for our freedom.


In contrast, the tradition in the United States is to wear the red poppy on Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday in May. On the other hand, Veterans Day is observed on November 11th and is dedicated to honoring all living veterans. It is important to note that Memorial Day is meant to pay tribute to the brave men and women who have sacrificed while fighting for our nation.


Conclusion


The red poppy flower holds a special place in people’s hearts worldwide. It’s more than just a wildflower, representing essential aspects of life such as sleep, peace, and even death. The symbolism of the red poppy is deeply rooted in remembrance, especially for the brave soldiers who have fallen in wars throughout history. Even after a century since World War 1 and the famous poem by McCrae, the significance of the red poppy flower is still felt around the globe. It’s heartwarming to know that this beautiful flower will continue to be a symbol of remembrance for generations to come.




Comments


bottom of page