At this time of year, poppies are increasingly seen on the streets of cities across the UK.
Millions of people wear them on their lapels in the run-up to Remembrance Day, while poppies can also be seen on buses and soccer jerseys.
But why do we wear poppies in November – and how did the poppy become the leading symbol of memory?
READ MORE: When is Memorial Day?
Why do we wear poppies in November?
Poppies are worn in October and November as a token of respect for British and Commonwealth soldiers killed on duty.
They are being sold to raise money for the Royal British Legion, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and providing various types of support to veterans and their families.
The money from the sale of poppies goes to the Royal British Legion Benevolent Fund.
In 2018, the poppy appeal fetched a record £ 55 million, but 2020 poppy sales were reportedly badly hit by the pandemic.
Where are poppies grown?
Memorial poppies are mainly borne in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
They are sometimes worn in the United States, where the American Legion Auxiliary sells them to raise funds.
What do the different colored poppies mean?
Red memory poppies are by far the most common, but other colors are sometimes worn to show support (or disapproval) of various causes.
White poppies sold by the Peace Pledge Union are worn both as a symbol of peace and in memory of all victims of war, including civilians and non-British, non-Commonwealth victims.
Sometimes black poppies are also worn, either as an anti-militarist gesture against the war or as a reminder of black, African and Caribbean soldiers killed in the war.
Purple poppies are also worn to commemorate animals killed in wars.
How did poppies become a symbol of memory?
Poppies are known to be mentioned in the WWI poem “In Flanders Fields”, written by the Canadian poet and doctor John McCrae.
The poem, composed after McCrae presided over a comrade’s funeral, is written from the perspective of the deceased staff and ends with a call to survivors to keep fighting.
Madame Guérin, a French lecturer and fundraiser, then came up with the idea of ”Inter-Allied Poppy Day” to collect money for the relatives of soldiers who died in the war.
Starting in 1919, she held her own poppy days in the United States, selling paper poppies to encourage donations, and advocating for groups of veterans.
It was subsequently adopted by veterans organizations in America and the UK.
One of these organizations was the Royal British Legion, which organized the first British Poppy Day 100 years ago in November 1921.
Where are memorial poppies made?
Memorial poppies are made by disabled veterans at the Poppy Factory in Richmond, London. Around 30 former service staff and their disabled relatives work there.
Scottish poppies – slightly different in design from their counterparts in other parts of the UK – are made by disabled veterans at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh.
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