Symbols & Remembrance: Wearing Your Poppy

I’m a firm believer in both buying and wearing a poppy.

The sale of poppies in Commonwealth countries not only supports the vital work of the Legions in those countries (Royal Canadian Legion, Royal British Legion among others) but also serves as an Poppiesimportant physical reminder of past wars and conflicts.

Remembering and marking (not celebrating) these events is as important now as it was when poppies were first introduced as a symbol of remembrance in 1921.

When should I wear my poppy?

I’ve been asked whether it’s acceptable to wear a poppy year-round.  While it’s a nice thought to show support throughout the year, the impact of the symbol starts to wane over time, so it’s best to restrict it to a few weeks a year.

Some people like to wait until after Hallowe’en, however, poppies traditionally go on sale on the last weekend in October, so anytime from then through November 11th is appropriate.

Note that in the United Kingdom the observance of ‘Remembrance Sunday’ sometimes takes place on the Sunday after November 11th (as is the case this year), therefore you may wish to keep your poppy on through to the end of that day.

Where do I wear my poppy?

There are many people who feel strongly about this. Left side, right side? On a cap or hat, or not?

It’s generally accepted that we wear our poppies on our left side, which is not only the traditional place for medals to be worn, but also considered to be closer to our hearts.  If you wish to wear it on your cap or hat the same applies.

That said, it’s the wearing of it that matters.  Not where you wear it.

Red or white?

I realize that there are some who view the wearing of a red poppy as promoting the idea of war, and for that reason white poppies, symbolizing peace, have appeared over the years.

We all have to make our own decisions about this. I take great pride in wearing my red poppy and view it as an important reminder of the past, rather than an encouragement of future conflict.  If you have questions about whether or not to wear a red or white poppy there are many articles and opinion pieces that can help you decide.

Poppy keeps popping off?

No matter which poppy you choose, you will lose it, guaranteed. Most of us will all go through at least two poppies a year. I have never had a problem with this ‘planned obsolescence’ – let’s face it, those pins are far too short – and I’ve never minded donating another few dollars or pounds to acquire another. What I don’t like is being without one in the interim.

This year, I decided that I would donate a larger amount for one poppy (the equivalent of the five I usually run through) and secure it with the little rubber backing used for earrings. That way the Legion doesn’t lose the money, and I don’t lose my poppy!

Lest we forget

Whether or not you wear a poppy (red or white), November, and the 11th in particular, is a good time to reflect on what we owe to all the men and women of the military, past and present, who have helped shape our countries, both in times of war and times of peace.  They have lived through events we can never imagine, and hope never to experience; recognizing this and showing our gratitude is the least we can do.

Poppy by Curtis Wilson

*With many thanks to Curtis Wilson for graciously allowing me to use his beautiful illustration.