Tuesday, January 6, 2009

poppy day

when i was in primary school, i remember that sometime in the third term ( yes, in those days, the academic year was divided into three terms, not four as it is today), just before the school closed, there was one day when these artificial poppies were brought to the class and we were asked to donate, however little much we could afford, to get one poppy.

we were told that it had something to do with the wars and soldiers who died during the world wars. when i was in secondary one, some smart fellow told us that the poppy flower came from the opium plant. we started to wonder why such a symbol (flower) associated with a banned substance was used for this fund raising purpose.

i do not remember when they stopped commemorating remembrance day in schools. these days, we do not see people distributing the artificial poppy to collect donation. i think it could have stopped sometime in the late 60s.

the poppy of wartime remembrance is papaver rhoeas, the red flowered corn poppy. this poppy is a common weed in europe and is found in many locations, including flanders fields. canadian surgeon and soldier, john mccrae wrote the poem in flanders fields on may 3, 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend, lt. alexis helmer. the opening line of the poem vividly describes the image of the poppies blowing in the wind amongst the many crosses that mark the resting places of fallen soldiers. thus the plant became a symbol for the dead world war 1 soldiers. in many commonwealth countries, artificial, paper or plastic versions of this poppy are worn to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans and civilians in world war 1 and other wars, during the weeks preceding remembrance day on november 11.

remembrance day is normally held in conjunction with poppy day. artificial red poppies are sold to the public on or around remembrance day to raise funds for the various veterans' leagues in assistance of needy veterans and their families. poppies are recognised as a symbol of ultimate sacrifice in war. it was said that one of the first flowers to bloom in the battlefields of flanders was the poppy.


JollyGreenP said...

The poppy seed is very resilient and can remain buried underground for many years until it is brought to the surface and exposed to light. Once it has been exposed to light it will germinate. Poppies can often been seen where waste ground has lain unmoved for years and will quickly grow and bloom once the ground is disturbed.

Joe said...

In those days, the poppy had a 'black button' in the middle.

nah said...

Remembrance Day is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces, and it is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on 11 November 1918.
In that month of November, I have notice while watching EPL matches that all the dignitaries, managers, coaches, players and even our EPL commentators who appeared on the TV screen marked Remembrance Day by wearing a poppy.
In Singapore, we celebrate Total Defence Day on 15 February to commemorate the anniversary of the surrender of the British to the Japanese on February 15, 1942.
It was brought to my attention when a war veterant from UK whom I befriended through my daughter, asked me why 15 February and not 12 September which is to commemorate the end of Japanese Occupation of Singapore on Sept 12, 1945 before Lord Mountbatten.

peter said...

I had seen this as a child. In Singapore the Salvation Army used to carry tins and a box of red poppy flowers (I believe it was red paper used) strung over the neck. Somehow the "festive mood" disappeared after Singapore joined Malaysia.

yg said...

hi john, thanks for the info. i believe that was what happened at flanders fields. the poppies bloomed after the ground was disturbed by all the war activities.

yg said...

mr nah, i suppose if you want to promote your own national education, you may have to downplay the significance of certain other events.

yg said...

peter, yes, the poppy flower was made of paper and plastic, with a length of thin wire.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks. That was very informative.