Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show: In Memory – Memorial Day and the Poppy
Garden Bite would like to thank all those who serve in the United States Military and their families. We honor those who gave everything.
Today is the day we reflect and remember our Soldiers. Memorial Day, which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military.
The red poppy came to symbolize our war veterans in 1921. It is a wildflower poppy. During World war one, the fields of Flanders in western Belgium saw 4 years of unrelenting battle. These fields had been filled with poppies but due to the trampling and bombing, there were no flowers during those years. After the war ended, these tough annual red poppies came back and in a most spectacular fashion. A seed count was taken with 2500 seeds found per square foot of that field.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
Written in Flanders on May 3, 1915
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.
Obviously, the post-war, blood red bloom from the fields of battle had a huge impact on all who saw or heard about it. But surely the most lasting memorial is the famous poem by Canadian battle surgeon/poet, John McCrae. Like the Star Spangled Banner, written in Baltimore Harbor during the bombardment, this poem was written on the spot, as McCrae gazed at fresh graves of his friends and comrades, and poppies “blowing” in the wind.