About National Poppy Day
Poppy Day is celebrated in several countries around the world. The American Legion Family brought National Poppy Day® to the United States by asking Congress to designate the Friday before Memorial Day, as National Poppy Day.
On the Friday before Memorial Day, wear a red poppy to honor the fallen and support the living who have worn our nation's uniform.
The red poppy is a nationally recognized symbol of sacrifice worn by Americans since World War I to honor those who served and died for our country in all wars. It reminds Americans of the sacrifices made by our veterans while protecting our freedoms.
Led by the American Legion Auxiliary, each year members of The American Legion Family distribute poppies with a request that the person receiving the flower make a donation to support the future of veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families with medical and financial needs.
The poppy flower has become a symbol for those who died in battle primarily because of its association with the famous World War I poem, "In Flanders Fields," written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician and soldier. The poem was written during the First World War, specifically in May 1915, after McCrae witnessed the devastation and loss of life during the Second Battle of Ypres in Flanders, Belgium.
How the Poppy became associated with those who served and died
"In Flanders Fields" describes the image of poppies growing amidst the graves of fallen soldiers in the war-torn fields of Flanders. The poem's poignant message and vivid imagery struck a chord with people around the world and quickly gained popularity. The opening lines of the poem are as follows:
"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."
The reference to poppies blooming in the midst of tragedy and death resonated deeply with the public and came to symbolize the sacrifice and bravery of soldiers who had lost their lives in battle. The red color of the poppy also became associated with the bloodshed and the ultimate sacrifice made by servicemen and women.
Following the poem's publication, the poppy quickly became an emblem of remembrance for fallen soldiers. The practice of wearing artificial red poppies on Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day or Veterans Day, started in the early 1920s and continues to this day in many countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Royal British Legion, a British charity supporting veterans and their families, adopted the poppy as a symbol of remembrance and began selling artificial poppies to raise funds for veterans' welfare. The funds raised through the sale of poppies are used to support veterans and their families, as well as to promote remembrance of the sacrifices made in war.
Overall, the poppy's significance as a symbol for those who died in battle stems from the emotional impact of "In Flanders Fields" and its association with the First World War. The enduring popularity of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance is a testament to the lasting power of poetry and the desire to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in war.