Although I have seen people wear red poppies around memorial day, I did not realize that the tradition started from a poem!
Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” after the civil war because survivors decorated graves of the fallen from both sides with flowers. After WWI, the practice was extended to include all war veterans and eventually to all who have served in the military. Lt. Colionel John McCrae, noticing red poppies growing from the the dirt and debris around fallen soldiers in a field during WWI wrote the poem “In Flander’s Field,” linking red poppies to the bloodshed by those who lost their lives in the great war. Scientists surmised that the red poppies flourished in Europe at the time due to the lime deposits from war debris. A symbol both of bloodshed and the renewal of life that regenerates out of catastrophe and tragedy.
“In Flanders Fields”
by John McCrae
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