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Published: May 22, 2019

Memorial Day and the Red Poppy

As Memorial Day comes up, I know most of us are just excited for the summer months, warm weather and an extra day off of work. But Memorial Day means so much more to our country than just barbecuing, and we wanted to take a moment to look into the history of what this day symbolizes.

The Red Poppy has long been a symbol of sleep, peace and death. In old Greek and Roman myths they were made as offerings to the dead. Today, millions of people across the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand recognize poppies as an emblem of remembrance. National Poppy Day falls on the Friday before Memorial Day, which is not just a coincidence.

In 1918 after WWI, a lady named Moina Belle Michael read the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, which talks about the shocking sight of seeing red poppies growing in the war ravaged Flanders Fields in Belgium. Moved by the symbolism, she wrote a poem in response that reads:

“. . . the blood of heroes never dies
But lends a luster to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders' Fields.”

From that day on, she vowed to always wear a red poppy to remember those who had died for our country, and for those who had survived. Moina came up with the idea of making and then selling red silk poppies for people to wear in order to raise money in support of the returning veterans. To this day, that tradition still stands. Nearly 3.5 million poppies were distributed by  the American Legion Auxiliary just last year, raising $2.1 million to “honor the fall and support the living.”

So this Memorial Day, enjoy the warm weather and your day off, but also take some time to give thanks and remember those who have given their lives to make yours possible. That may look like just spending some extra time with your loved ones, but here are some Memorial Day traditions you may like to take part in:

  • Visit a cemetery or memorial and place flags or poppies on the gravestones. The Pikes Peak National Cemetery is our local Veterans’ cemetery here in Colorado Springs.
  • Observe a moment of silence at 3pm in remembrance of those who have given their lives.
  • Read a book about Memorial Day with your kids! “The Poppy Lady” by Barbara E Walsh is a great one for learning about the significance of the red poppy.

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend! We know we're extremely grateful for the lives we live and the opportunities this country gives us. Thank you to all of those who have served or continue to serve our country.

To learn more and get involved with National Poppy Day, visit https://www.legion.org/poppyday to donate or buy a poppy!

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