How Did Poppies Become the Symbol of Veterans Day?

Honoring service members has been a hot-button issue in our country as of late. No matter what your political stance is on the topic, we can surely all agree that those who served this great country deserve to be recognized, and Veterans Day, on Friday, November 10, is an opportunity to do just that.

Veterans Day, which is observed annually on November 11 (or on Friday, November 10 if the 11th falls on a Saturday – as is the case this year), is often confused with the more widely-recognized Memorial Day, but there is a distinct difference between the two holidays.

Memorial Day honors those who died while serving in the military, while Veterans Day is meant to honor the service of all U.S. military veterans. So, technically, thanking a living vet for their service on Memorial Day is missing the intended meaning of the holiday. Obviously, there isn’t a “wrong” time to thank a veteran, but if you’re going to pick a day to do so, Veterans Day is it!

Just how did this holiday get its start? It all started back in 1926 when the U.S. Congress adopted a resolution requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations calling for an observance of November 11 – notable because World War I formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.

It took 12 years for a Congressional Act to officially make the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday. Originally known as Armistice Day in the United States, the name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

Poppies

Like many other holidays, Veterans Day has a direct tie to the floral industry with poppies being symbolic of the observance. Many poppy wreaths are laid at war memorials and small artificial poppies are worn on clothing to commemorate this patriotic holiday.

Inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” in which the opening lines refer to poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the soil from soldiers’ graves in the Flanders region of Belgium, these small red flowers were adopted by the National American Legion as their official symbol of remembrance in 1920.

The Royal British Legion soon after adopted the poppy as their symbol, as did veterans’ groups in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as a host of other countries.

Although they are closely related, the poppies used for Veterans Day (as well as Memorial Day) are not the same species as the opium poppy which is grown as a field crop to produce opium and poppy seeds. Opium poppies were once prohibited in the United States under the Opium Poppy Control Act of 1942, however, the law has since been repealed and the law of poppy cultivation in the U.S. is now somewhat vague and remains controversial.

Coincidently, the red remembrance poppies aren’t free from controversy of their own. In fact, some anti-war groups view the remembrance poppy as a political symbol of war and conflict. The controversy has even spread to the sports world and particularly European soccer clubs where remembrance poppies are a common occurrence on team uniforms in the run-up to Remembrance Day.

Some groups have adopted white poppies as an alternative to, or an accompaniment to, red poppies as a way to symbolize peace without glamorizing war. Additionally, purple poppies are sometimes used in Britain to commemorate animals that have been victims of war.

Regardless of the controversies surrounding this little red flower, you’re probably going to see them “popping” up around town this week. When you do, remember to take a moment to give thanks to all the veterans who serve – or have served – our country.

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Chrysanthemums: The Ultimate Fall Flower

We often associate certain flowers with certain times of the year. Red roses, for example, are an iconic symbol of Valentine’s Day, and spring never really arrives until the tulips start popping up. Poinsettias usher in the holiday season while sunflowers remind us of lazy late-summer days.

But when it comes to fall, chrysanthemums are the star of the season – especially during the month of November. With their brilliant colors and long-lasting nature, mums can brighten up any front porch or indoor space. Many people, however, do not realize the deep symbolism behind this favorite autumn icon.

In Chinese culture, this flowering herb symbolizes a life of ease and longevity. Together with the plum blossom, the orchid, and bamboo, chrysanthemums are renowned as one of the “Four Gentlemen” in Chinese and Eastern Asian art and are depicted in traditional ink and wash painting

Wellington by Topper’s European Floral Design

The earliest illustrations of mums show them to be daisy-like flowers that are small and yellow in color. Today’s chrysanthemums can be quite showy and would probably not be recognized by ancient growers. Modern chrysanthemums can be daisy-like or decorative, like pompons or buttons. In addition to the traditional yellow color, mums can now also be found in a variety of whites, purples, and reds.

Around the 8th century A.D., the chrysanthemum appeared in Japan and was so admired that it was adopted as the crest and official seal of the emperor. The western world was not introduced to the mum until the 17th century and it first appeared in American horticulture in 1798 when Colonel John Stevens imported a variety called ‘Dark Purple’ from England.

Just as the season the represent, chrysanthemums are known for being hardy and strong while also presenting an unmistakable sense of beauty and intrigue. Consider including some mums the next time you order flowers so that you can enjoy these amazing flowers! The Wellington by Topper’s European Floral Design features the lovely mum and is a perfect way to spread some autumnal cheer!

Did You Know???

  • Despite their strong presence in the fall, chrysanthemums are tropical flowers that were originally grown in the Eurasian region.
  • In the Victorian language of flowers, yellow chrysanthemums are a gentle way to decline amorous advances and white mums encourage the recipient to tell the truth or to be honest.
  • The chrysanthemum is November’s birth flower. If you are born in November, the mum is symbolic of your soul’s many layers.
  • In Eastern meditative traditions, the chrysanthemum is used as a focus tool to activate the heart chakra.
  • Germans have white chrysanthemums in their homes on Christmas Eve as a symbol of Christ.
  • The name, chrysanthemum, is adapted from the Greek word, “chryos” which means gold (the original color) and “athos” meaning flower.
  • Some species of chrysanthemum flowers are boiled to make tea in parts of Asia. Likewise, a rice wine in Korea called gukhwaju is flavored with chrysanthemum flowers.
  • The chrysanthemum was recognized as the official flower of the city of Chicago by Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1966.