November 11, 2002

Remembrance Day 2002

This is my fourth Remembrance Day entry.

In my second, two years ago, I wrote about the poppy as a symbol of commemoration.
In Canada, they're everywhere from mid-October to mid-November.

In fact beginning last year, only weeks after the terrorist attacks on the US, Canadian poppy sales enjoyed a resurgence, going from about 13 million to 17 million. For a population of 30 million, not bad at all.
This year those who count these things expect sales to hit 18 million.

Just about everyone is wearing this plastic-felt pin on their left lapel or on the left side of their jacket.
Left, close to the heart.

Proceeds from the sale fund Canadian Legion programs for veterans and their families.

I recently found out more about this striking plant:

First of all, the poppies that spontaneously appeared on European battlefields were "field poppies", not to be confused with "opium poppies" from which various legal and illegal narcotics are derived.

The field poppy thrives on soil rich in lime. The "Flanders Fields" where poppies were noted in wartime (even as far back as the Napoleonic Wars, according to this article) don't normally support their abundant growth but after battles, lime from "rubble" would leach into the soil and poppies would flourish - but only until the battles were over and the lime depleted.

The poppy is thus not merely a symbol, but a metaphor.

Remembrance Day seems to be much higher in the collective consciousness this year and last.

This journal has received more hits from people searching for remembrance day and poppies than ever before.

A teenage student posted a message in my forum, in response to last year's thread, saying how she recognizes the tremendous courage of the veterans in the face of the incomprehensible.
(She must have come across my site in doing research for school.)

Last week, while lunching with my friend Annie and an acquaintance of hers, the conversation turned to what our fathers did in World War II. What sparked that was a photo I noticed in the acquaintance's wallet. In the middle of baby photos of children and grandchildren was a picture of a man in uniform, similar to the ones I posted in 1999.
I think it's lovely that this woman carries such a photo in her wallet, and I intend to place one of my father in my own wallet.

I reproduced the poem In Flanders Fields in the 2000 entry. As Canadian children we were required to memorize it, and its words are as familiar as any scent of my childhood.
But I never paid attention to the meaning of the third verse before:

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.


Some Links
History Television (Canada) Site

Article about Poppies

CBC Remembrance Day Site

Royal Canadian Legion Site

Veterans Affairs Canada

The Canadian War Museum



Looking Back
Remembrance Day Entries:

2001:
Remembrance Day 2001

2000:
Poppies

1999:
Remembrance Day



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