If you live in the UK, Canada, or other commonwealth countries, you’ve seen poppies like this one commonly worn on Remembrance Day (November 11th).
Remembrance Day is a memorial holiday honoring fallen soldiers, recognized since the end of the First World War. It’s a chance for people to stop and reflect on the horrible realities of war and those who lost their lives when nations took up arms.
Poppies have become a widely-recognized symbol of remembrance because these bright, colorful flowers grew in the same fields soldiers fought during World War One. Their significance is codified in the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.
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.
McCrae presents a chilling remembrance of fallen soldiers who were to him, only a short time before, living, breathing friends and neighbors.
A war-torn nation wanted to make sure these sacrifices would not be forgotten. Though it’s a painful memory, survivors of the war knew it was vitally important for the future of their country to remember the costs of war and honor those whose lives were cut short.
The poppy is an effective image. It’s bright red color simultaneously recalls the grim realities of conflict and the new life that springs in peacetime.
Powerful symbols like this remind us of vital truths and important events that inform our choices and shape our values. Colors and forms can carry special meaning for us and keep us attentive to what really matters.
Whether they are personal to you or hold meaning for your family and community, you have your own symbols of remembrance. When you use colors and symbols to remind yourself of what matters, you send a message to your future self: Don’t forget. This matters.