Have you seen people wearing poppies on their clothes lately? Even though we’re in November it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving but with World War I.
Our teacher Stephen Murphy has written an article so that you can know more about the origin of this tradition. Read on!
Also known as Armistice day, Poppy day or in America – veteran’s day, on November 11th many countries pay tribute to those who died in the First World War by having a one or two minute silence and a great number of people wear a poppy to commemorate too.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, there was an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations which ended a war that had continued for four years. The Poppy symbolizes this day because of Major John McCrae, a Canadian military doctor and commander, who was asked to conduct a burial service for one of his fellow soldiers. It was there he saw red flowers (poppies) growing on the battlefield where so many had fallen just hours or days before and it is said that this was the inspiration for his now very famous poem“In Flanders fields”.
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.
by John McCrae, May 1915
That poem is something I remember learning about in History and English classes back home in England and it is part of the syllabus nationwide. The two World Wars affected so many families and I, like plenty of others, can trace a relative who fought and died in WW1 or WW2. So this day is a big deal, we learn about the significance of it from school and our grandparents from an early age.
Remembrance Day is not a national holiday in most of the 50 countries that participate but it is an observation holiday which is why so many have a moment of silence. In Canada they commemorate the sacrifices of people in all armed conflicts and have a two minute silence whereas Australia is much like Britain and has one minute to remember all the dead especially those who gave their lives for their country. At 11 o`clock on November the 11th people stop whatever they are doing, whether they are in a shopping center or at their desk at work, they have their time to reflect on those who lost their lives. You see this at sporting events too and it is a powerful thing to witness, so many bowing their heads and pausing what they are doing for that time.
England played Scotland last Friday 11th in a World Cup qualifier and here you saw tens of thousands of people respecting the minute silence, as did Wales and Ireland in their games. However, there was some controversy before the matches this year, and not for the first time, regarding football and wearing the poppy. Teams wanted to wear the red flower on their jerseys but Fifa technically doesn’t permit political or religious messages on shirts, so only suggested a black band or stripe on the arm but not the symbol of the armistice which is so familiar.
In the end, not all the teams that week wore the poppy on their shirt but showed their respect in other ways because it means so much to so many people all over the globe.
What do you think guys? Imagine going on holiday to the UK and seeing everyone stop what they’re doing to pay tribute to those who died so many years ago. It’d be something worth witnessing! 😀
Meanwhile, here you have the links to the videos Steve mentions in the article!
And for a challenge, can anybody figure out what the sentence “Lest we forget” means? No dictionaries! ;D You can post your ideas in our comment section and we’ll get back to you!
Have a lovely end of November! 😉