Each year in November the poppy appears on coats, shirts, bags, and hats across the country, in remembrance of those who gave their lives for Canada.
It’s a symbol as old as any of us, but how much do you really know about the poppy?
The origins of the poppy as a symbol of death in wartime are as old as the Napoleonic campaign of the early 19th Century, with certain writings remarking on the huge numbers of poppies that would bloom following battles.
Later, during World War I, artillery strikes caused previously harsh soils to become rich with lime from the rubble of destroyed buildings, providing fertile ground for the common poppy to flourish. This in turn inspired Canadian war medic Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae to write his iconic poem “In Flanders Fields.”
After hearing the poem, American teacher Moina Michael pledged to wear a poppy on her lapel to honour fallen soldiers. While visiting the United States a French woman named Madame Guerin heard of the custom and decided to distribute hand made poppies to raise money for war orphans. The act caught on and in 1921, the Great War Veteran’s Association – predecessor of the Royal Canadian Legion – adopted the poppy as the official Flower of Remembrance.
Donations accepted as part of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy Campaign are held in trust as part of the Legion’s Poppy Fund. The fund supports currently serving and retired service members in a number of ways, from grants for food, heating costs, clothing, and prescription medication, to low-rental housing facilities, community medical appliances and medical research, and meals-on-wheels programs.
The money also goes toward preserving the memory of Veterans through the construction and maintenance of various memorials, and to supporting the surviving spouses and families of Veterans.
Whatever it’s being spent on, Canadians can guarantee that any money they donate is being used to support current and former military members across the country.
The Royal Canadian Legion is the most direct way for Canadians to support their Veterans, and for those interested in putting a bit of pocket change towards the cause there are a number of ways to help.
The Royal Canadian Legion
86 Aird Place
Ottawa ON, K2L 0A1
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2015 but updated to include current information.