Yes, they’re everywhere in the UK at this time of year. We used to wear little red paper poppies on lapels, but now that more people are becoming environmentally conscious (and conscientious), they’ve given way to ceramic pins and crocheted poppies.
Remembrance Day, (or Poppy Day) is the 11th of November every year in the UK, and it commemorates the end of World War 1 on that day in 1918. It was introduced by King George V in 1919 and today serves to honour members of the UK and Commonwealth’s armed forces who have died in the line of duty. The tradition evolved from what was known as Armistice Day; I remember my grandmother (born in 1901) talking about Armistice Day and as a child, I could never quite figure out what she was saying.
This year, the Royal British Legion has said that the poppy will also stand for civilian victims, not just of war, but terrorism too. “Our core positioning hasn’t changed but we do want to make it more explicit in our language, because remembrance is inclusive of all modern Britain and its important communities know their views and values are reflected in our activity,” the Legion’s assistant director of remembrance, Robert Lee told the Guardian newspaper. (The Royal British Legion, sometimes called The British Legion or The Legion, is a British charity providing financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants.)
If you ever visit the UK, you’ll see that there are WW1 memorials all over the place, and in the most unlikely places. (The above is in Bracknell, Royal Berkshire.) Just this summer my youngest commented on the “ubiquitous WW1 memorial” in a village we happened to be visiting. On Remembrance Sunday, (this weekend) in small villages and large towns and cities, a wreath-laying ceremony will take place and two minutes’ silence will be observed.
“And why poppies?”, you may ask. The poppies are a symbol of the fields of Flanders where some of the battles took place. John McCrae wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields‘ which inspired the use of the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance. In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, he wrote it after seeing poppies growing in battle-scarred fields.
In Flanders Fields
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.
There was a fantastic display of large ceramic poppies several years ago, spilling out of The Tower of London. I was still in the States so I never got to see it, but after the display was taken down, they were sold off for charity. I was able to buy one for my mother, whose grandfather fought and came back from WW1. Here’s a great story of how the poppies were actually made
And here’s my photo of a fabulous house near me that has taken poppy-wearing to the next level.