Symbols & Remembrance: Wearing your Poppy

Today marks the day that our poppies go on sale and I’m a firm believer in both buying and wearing a poppy. The sale of poppies not only supports the vital work of the Royal Canadian Legion but also serves as an Royal Canadian Legion Volunteersimportant physical reminder of past wars and conflicts. Remembering and marking (not celebrating) these events is as important now as it was when they first came into being in 1921.

I try to buy my poppy from the Legion volunteers who set up their tables in and around the town because I enjoy chatting with them and showing my support. Today I had the enormous pleasure of meeting these two lovely volunteers, Marleine Levin and her mum, Eva Kay.  I was doubly-pleased to discover that they are two strong Scots women originally from Glasgow (my Nanny’s birthplace). Marleine kindly offered to pin my poppy on so that it would be secure.

Wondering how to wear your poppy?

In late October and early November the inevitable questions arise: when and how to wear your poppy?

When should I wear my poppy?

The practical answer about ‘when’ is that, in Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion poppies officially go on sale on the last Friday of October (today), so that generally dictates timing, unless you have one leftover from previous years. No matter when you start wearing your poppy, it should be worn through November 11th then tucked away for next year.

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.

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 to 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 what is comfortable for you.

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 to get another one. 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 country, both in times of war and times of peace.  They have lived through experiences we can never imagine; 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.