If you are visiting or just moved to the UK, you cannot miss people all over the country donning a vibrant red flower on their lapels, coats, and scarves in the early days of November. This cherished tradition is known as Remembrance Day, and the iconic poppy has been its faithful ambassador for over a century.
Remembrance Day, observed on November 11th each year, commemorates the end of World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the armistice was signed, marking the cessation of hostilities.
The poppy became associated with this day of remembrance thanks to the famous war poem "In Flanders Fields" by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who served as a field surgeon in World War I. The poem describes how poppies grew amidst the graves of fallen soldiers in Flanders, a region in Belgium heavily impacted by the war.
The Birth of the Poppy Appeal
In 1921, inspired by McCrae's poem, an American woman named Moina Michael began the tradition of wearing red poppies to honor the fallen soldiers and support their families. The idea quickly spread to the UK, thanks to the efforts of Madame Anna Guérin, a Frenchwoman who collaborated with the Royal British Legion. Thus, the Poppy Appeal was born.
The Poppy Appeal is an annual fundraising campaign that collects donations in exchange for paper poppies. These donations support veterans and their families. Over the years, the poppy has become a poignant symbol of remembrance and gratitude for the sacrifices made by those who served in the armed forces.
The Poppy Today
In the UK, you'll see the iconic red poppies adorning the lapels and collars of people from all walks of life and nationalities throughout November. The poppy's ubiquity is a testament to the enduring spirit of remembrance and the country's deep respect for its veterans.
The funds collected through the Poppy Appeal support a wide range of services for veterans and their families, including financial assistance, medical care, and emotional support. It's a tangible way for the community to give back to those who have given so much for their country.
Other traditions to commemorate Remembrance Day include:
Two-Minute Silence: At the heart of Remembrance Day is a two-minute silence observed at 11:00 AM, marking the precise moment when the armistice was signed in 1918 to end World War I. During this silence, people across the country pause in their activities to pay their respects and remember the fallen. It's a moment of reflection and contemplation.
Remembrance Sunday: While Remembrance Day itself falls on November 11th, the Sunday nearest to this date is designated as Remembrance Sunday. On this day, large-scale memorial services are held across the country. The National Service of Remembrance takes place at the Cenotaph in London, attended by members of the royal family, political leaders, veterans, and the public.
By participating in the Poppy Appeal, you'll be part of a cherished tradition that unites the UK in a profound display of gratitude and remembrance.