04 Nov
I Love Poppies

Years ago, after the snow melted around our first house, I discovered a border of poppies that promised to come to life every spring. I was delighted. I am attracted to poppy images on fabric, poppies on hats, poppies as jewellery, and poppy paintings. I often wear a red silk flower to brighten a black jacket. I bought a perfect red art-pin at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London one summer, and it resembles a poppy. I love poppies.

Of course, like most Canadians, I also wear a Remembrance Poppy for the days preceding November eleventh. From the last Friday in October through to the end of November eleventh, Canadians follow the protocol and tradition outlined by the Royal Canadian Legion.

The Royal Canadian Legion was given the responsibility to safeguard the poppy, as a sacred symbol of remembrance, by the people of Canada, through an act of Parliament. In 1948, they were given the trademark copyright of the Poppy symbol in Canada. They promised to protect the image, ensuring that it would never be used for commercial or personal gain or be desecrated through inappropriate use. This trademark includes both the Legion’s Poppy logo and the Poppy symbol as it relates to Remembrance.

The trademark doesn’t apply to the year-round love and use of the poppy flower unless someone misrepresents the image, somehow misleading people to think it’s the Legion’s Poppy. If I get a brilliant idea and want to use the Poppy trademark somehow, I can propose my idea to the Royal Canadian Legion. In fact, for a fleeting moment, I did have an idea to build a better, more expensive Poppy. I planned to make more money for Veterans while protecting children and husbands from being injured, during hugs, by the pointy stick pins, presently on the back of Canada's Remembrance Poppies. To my complete delight, I discovered there already is a more expensive Poppy with a perfect closure. A dear friend bought me my first bright red, enamelled Poppy from the official Poppy Store, and I was drawn to buy more.

While visiting the Canadian Legion website, I was intrigued by the Poppy Protocol section and learned that many of my innovative ideas were already available. There are official Remembrance Poppy stickers that are perfect for children or the elderly. Poppy keepers are little plastic tubes that fit onto the pin at the Poppy's back, keeping poppies from falling off of a jacket. The Royal Canadian Legion prefers people to use a Poppy Keeper rather than add their own pin to the trademarked Poppy centre.  

I continue to learn about the protocol and history that swirls around the wearing of the Remembrance Poppy. I have always understood that we wear the Poppy, on our left side, over our hearts to show respect and gratitude for those who fought to ensure our freedom. We donate money for our Poppies to help those affected by war. We enjoy living in this country because of those who fought and those who continue to fight for our rights and freedoms. The Royal Canadian Legion hopes that all Canadians will wear a Poppy during this time. 2014 marked a huge growth in the number of people donating money and wearing Poppies. In fact, 19.5 million Poppies were distributed in Canada that year.

I have learned that I can wear a Remembrance Poppy at other times, provided I have a respectful reason. I wanted to wear a Poppy on the day my husband and I visited the beaches of Normandy. The rows of crosses touched me. As I learned more about Juno Beach, I felt connected with the young men who died for us.

I also wanted to wear a Poppy during a visit to the D-Day Museum in New Orleans. My husband and I entered the museum mid-morning, and it was 5:00 pm when we left. It was a day of remembering, respecting, learning, and donating. I could see myself, and my loved ones, in every story that I read about the life and death of those who fought for our freedom. How terrified I would have been to wave goodbye to my childhood sweetheart as he went off to war. How diligently I would have worked, in the factories, to support our troops. Keeping busy would have been the only way to survive the terrible waiting.

Imagine, when the war was finally over, seeing fields of beautiful red poppies appear where gruesome battles had occurred. Now, we know that poppies flourished in Europe when soils in France and Belgium became rich with lime as a result of battle debris left behind from the First World War. The poppies seemed to be bringing a message of hope to the world, as they sprang up, in such abundance, particularly around the gravesites of those who died in battle. Of course, John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Canadian Artillery, wrote a poem in 1915, describing the poppy phenomenon. Today, the poem In Flanders Fields is read in almost every Canadian school each November.  

In 1918, John’s poem inspired a girl named Moina Michael to make a personal pledge to wear a red poppy, like the ones described in the poem, in remembrance of those who died. She worked in the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ headquarters in New York. Two years after that, Anna Guérin, on a visit to the YMCA, was inspired by Moina’s idea of the memorial poppy and suggested artificial poppies could be made and sold as a way of raising money to help those who suffered, as a result of the war. Madame Guérin eventually convinced the Great War Veterans Association of Canada, later called the Royal Canadian Legion, to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance and a way to raise money.

The Remembrance Poppy has had a long history. Knowing that the Poppy symbol is a registered trademark, owned and controlled by The Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, since June of 1948, has helped me understand the many rules that are in place surrounding the Poppy. We can visit their website anytime to find answers to our questions. We can contact them. We can even join the Legion without being a veteran. When we join the Legion, we support the many services they offer to Veterans, Military, RCMP, and their families.

Many countries have chosen to use the Poppy as a symbol of respect, remembrance, and fundraising for those who fought for their freedom. On November first, I attended the 2015 World Mining Competition Finals at the Edwards School of Business, here in Saskatoon. The students competing were from many countries and wore Poppies on their left lapels during their presentations, symbolically remembering their own country's Veterans. It seemed very fitting. Poppies differ in design from country to country, but the sentiment remains the same.

While reading, I was pleased to learn that it is acceptable to wear several Poppies at once. Our Queen likes to wear several. This is a wonderful way to remember each family member who served or each country where they fought. This year, I am wearing three Poppies, one for each of my husband’s uncles who served, survived, and continued to contribute to Canadian society after their return. Of course, we both had grandfathers who served in the First World War, sustained injuries and returned to their families. Maybe next year I will wear five Poppies.  

Wearing three beautiful enamelled Poppies purchased from the Legion Poppy Store has been a conversation starter. I have been able to talk about my uncles, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the beautiful enamelled Poppies.

The Poppy Campaign is one of the Royal Canadian Legion’s most important programs. Regardless of which Remembrance Poppy you choose to wear or how many Poppies you wear at one time, wear them with respect and pride. Make one generous donation or several smaller ones. Each day, up to and including November eleventh, I take a look in the mirror as I leave the house to be sure I have a Poppy over my heart.  

In Flanders Fields was written 100 years ago. This book celebrates a perfect poem.   


Comments (6)

  • Helen Davis
    November 6, 2019 at 08:50 am

    Hope you always bring that back this time of year. I just ordered a poppy and bracelet from the Legion store. Thanks for sharing your stories, Maureen.

  • Gayle Senger
    November 10, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    You are a terrific writer. Always so inspiring. Glad to have you as a friend.

  • Diane Rimmer
    November 9, 2018 at 01:37 am

    Thanks Maureen. This was packed with facts I wasn't aware of. Remembrance Day has always been a very important day for us and I thank you for writing about the poppy. Diane

  • Bev Gardne
    November 13, 2015 at 06:52 am

    Wonderful blog Maureen! Interesting to hear new information regarding the poppies. Love your enamel ones and your sentiment to wearing several.

  • Estelle Forster
    November 6, 2015 at 08:35 am

    Maureen I thank you for for this research on poppies. They remind me of the great sacrifices made for the freedom we take for granted now. It reminded me of my wonderful grandparents that had 12 children at war time. 4 sons were off to Europe 4 son in laws 1 son in law stayed and made munitions. Can't imagine grandma 's tears. Yes I love the poppy and think about my Aunts and Uncle and my Mom and Dad's sacrifice.

  • Marion Murawsky
    November 6, 2015 at 08:20 am

    A great reminder of what the poppy symbolizes. Thanks Maureen

Let us know what you think