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Why Do We Wear Poppies On Memorial Day?

Memorial Day poppies appear every year and raise funds for a great cause, but what is the history behind wearing one of these red flowers?

The red poppy, or Remembrance Poppy, has been a symbol of lives lost to war since World War I (1914–1918), and Memorial Day poppies play a big part in the history of Memorial Day.

Sales of red poppies benefit veteran's associations and fund many charities and veterans causes. The poppy is worn in many of the countries that were allied during World War I, including Great Britain, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

In most of those other countries, the poppy is worn on and leading up to Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day) on Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day in the United States.

The poppy is a symbol of support for veterans. On Memorial Day, they are a popular way to show support and respect for fallen veterans, both by visibly representing the cause and by giving money to charities that serve veterans and sell the poppies as a fundraiser each year.

The poppy as a symbol of war casualties started with a poem. In the spring of 1915, a Canadian artillery unit brigade surgeon named Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae saw bright-red poppies blooming on the war-torn fields where so many soldiers had lost their lives. The sight moved him to write the famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.

According to a USMemorialDay article, two women in different countries started the custom of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day when they were inspired by the poem.

American University of Georgia professor Moïna Michael wrote a poem in 1918 in response to McCrae’s, titled “We Shall Keep Faith.” She also started wearing a red poppy in honor of the troops and came up with the idea of making and selling red poppies to raise money for veterans.

Meanwhile, in France, Anna Guérin organized large poppy drives, making and selling poppies to raise money for widows, orphans and veterans, and to fund France’s post-war restoration efforts.

On Monday, May 29, 2023, many Americans will pin a bright-red poppy to their shirts as a sign of respect.


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