Archive | November 10, 2012

Poppy Day, November 11 (Every Year), British Remembrance Day: A Beautiful Tradition

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Poppy Day,
also known as Remembrance Day
& Armistice Day,
is Veteran’s Day in the
British Commonwealth.

It is always observed on November 11, without exception since that was Armistice Day — the day, in 1918, the armistice [i.e., truce] was signed the Allies [i.e., US the good guys] and Germany, at Compiègne, France, to bring to an end World War I [1914 to 1918], which involved over 70 million troops and had killed more than 9 million combatants.

The armistice was signed, symbolically, on the ‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month‘, 11 a.m., on 11/11, 1918 in a railway carriage in the woods of Compiègne, in northern France. [Yes, I have visited Compiègne and seen the railway carriage].

The poppies symbolize those that grew in profusion across some of the worst battlefields. [Think of French Claude Monet’s ‘Poppies Blooming’ painted in 1873.] A Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who was serving in WW I,wrote a poem, in 1915, called ‘In Flanders Fields‘, after attending the funeral of a fellow soldier [‘Flanders‘ being a region in northern Europe in which there was heavy fighting]. The first verse of it went:

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.

An autographed copy of the poem that gives us this lovely tradition.

Herein comes the beautiful, evocative, touching tradition of wearing a poppy, on your lapel or hat, in the weeks leading up to November 11.

It is a wonderful tradition. A visual gesture.

Why we don’t do it in the U.S. is a mystery to me. Though I think about it every November I have, until this, never really given it much thought. I am going to look into it. I am going to see if I can introduce to this country. People will love it. Kids would embrace it. In my other life, as a papal historian, I often have to look at British newspapers online. Over the last two weeks they have included a poppy in their banner, example 1 & example 2. It was those images in the newspaper banners that really hit home. They have poppies in Canada for Poppy Day.

Click to explore.

November 11, 2012
President Obama without one and British Prime Minister with a poppy.
Also the Queen and her husband.
Click for this November 11, 2012 post.

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