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In Flanders Fields: Symbol of the Poppy for Memorial Day

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The symbol of the poppy flower has changed a lot through history.  However, since the First World War, red poppies have been a symbol of remembrance, hope and resilience for veterans and the families of those who have served in the military all over the world.

This beautiful red flower is the symbol of Memorial Day, Veterans Day (in the United States), Armistice Day, and Remembrance Day in the UK, Australia, France and Canada.  

Flanders fields poppy poem- symbol of poppy for Memorial Day and Veterans Day

I want to share with you two famous poems that bring in the symbol of the poppy and help us understand why this became a symbol for these honored days: In Flanders Fields by John McCrae and We Shall Keep the Faith by Moina Michael.  These are great poems to study and learn with your kids or students during patriotic holidays. 

With Memorial Day coming up, the last Monday in May, I wanted to create printables for these two poems to help you in your teaching. Included in the printable are pages with the full poems printed, as well as handwriting and copywork pages for kids to practice writing them out. 

The Symbol of the Poppy

Did you know there is a National Poppy Day in the United States?  On the Friday before Memorial Day, wear a red poppy to honor those who have fallen in battle and to support those living who wear out country’s uniform. You will likely see the American Legion Auxiliary giving out red poppy pins on this day in exchange for donations to help our veterans. 

The poppy is a timeless token of remembrance, resilience, and hope. From the verses of “In Flanders Fields” to the pledge of “We Shall Keep the Faith,” the poppy became a powerful symbol of endurance. 

Many wear the poppy to remember, to honor the sacrifices of the past, cherish the blessings of the present, and seek a future marked by peace and, understanding.  There are many beautiful silk poppies or lapel pins available to purchase and wear!

Now, on to the beautiful poems.

In Flanders Fields

“In Flanders Fields,” is a famous poem that was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae during World War I. This poem established the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. The poem is set against the backdrop of the battlefields of Belgium. McCrae’s important poem captures the feelings of loss, valor, and the continuous passage of time. The opening lines, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row,” evoke a haunting image of nature’s resilience amidst the devastation of war. These beautiful red flowers still bloomed amid the intense devastation.

The poppy, with its vibrant blooms, became an important symbol in McCrae’s verses. The red flowers symbolized the bloodshed and sacrifice of the servicemen who perished in battle. The red poppy flower’s presence amidst the graves serves as a reminder of the human cost of war and the lasting legacy of those who gave their lives in service.

In Flanders Fields

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.

We Shall Keep the Faith

After being touched by McCrae’s poem, the following year, in 1918, American professor Moina Michael wrote her own poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith”.  Her poem helped solidify the poppy as a powerful symbol of remembrance. She was inspired by the closing lines of “In Flanders Fields,” and pledged to wear a red poppy as a symbol of honor and remembrance for fallen soldiers.  

Her poem, served as a rallying cry for the coming generations.  It calls upon us to honor the sacrifices of the past while striving for a future marked by peace and understanding. The beautiful flower, with its vibrant hue, became a beacon of hope amidst the darkness of war.  It has many symbolic meanings including the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring legacy of those who have gone before.

We Shall Keep the Faith

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Another woman worked tirelessly to make the poppy a symbol of remembrance and should also be recognized. In 1921, Anna Guérin, a French woman, worked in the United States to organize poppy days. Next, she went to the United Kingdom and worked with the Royal British Legion to persuade them to accept this idea. She also brought the idea to France and to New Zealand. They even opened a poppy factory to produce artificial poppies to pass out as a symbol of peace and remembrance. 

The History of the Poppy Symbol

Beyond its association with war and remembrance, the poppy appeal has resonated across cultures and generations. In mythology, the poppy is often linked to themes of eternal sleep, death, and rebirth.

Anciently,  the poppy flower was a symbol of resurrection and eternal life to the Ancient Egyptians. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it in their funeral rites to symbolize peace, sleep and rebirth. In Greek mythology Demeter used it as a symbol of mourning for Persephone who was taken by Hades into the underworld. You will also see it in Ancient Chinese and Mesopotamian art, in literature and even in film!  (You may remember the field of poppies in Wizard of Oz!) It has quite the history and has many uses including food and medicinal uses. 

Download the Poppy Poems Now! 

poppy poems for Memorial Day

Download these printable poems and handwriting pages, now! These are PDF files and you can access them by clicking the button below. This download includes both poems in color and black and white, as handwriting pages and as copywork pages. 

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