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History of the Poppy

The poppy, an international symbol for those who died in war, also had international origins. A writer first made connection between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that fields that were barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended. Prior to the First World War few poppies grew in Flanders. During the tremendous bombardments of that war the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing ‘popaver rhoeas’ to thrive. When the war ended the lime was quickly adsorbed, and the poppy began to disappear again. Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, the Canadian doctor who wrote the poem “IN FLANDERS FIELD,” made the same connection 100 years later, during the First World War, and the scarlet poppy quickly became the symbol for soldiers who died in battle. Three years later an American, Moina Michael, was working in a New York City YMCA canteen when she started wearing a poppy in memory of the millions who died in the battlefield. During a 1920 visit to the United States a French woman, Madame Guerin, learned of the custom. On her return to France she decided to use handmade poppies to raise money for the destitute children in war- torn areas of the country. In November 1921, the first poppies were distributed in Canada. Thanks to the millions of Canadians who wear flowers each November, the little red plant has never died. And neither have Canadian’s memories for 116, 031 of their countrymen who died in battle.

The poppy reminds us of the people who gave their lives for peace and freedom. The poppy reminds us of war and the great costs it brings society and that peace is something we should strive for beyond all things.

The poppy is a symbol of peace and it reminds us of the people who died for us. The poppy means red blood from the men who died in battle.