Poppy Day in Canada

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Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veterans Day – is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on November 11th to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918. (My Dad was just 1 month and 6 days old on this date.)

The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during the war. Common British, Canadian, South African, and ANZAC traditions include two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:00 am, 11 November), as that marks the time (in the United Kingdom) when armistice became effective.

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The Service of Remembrance in many Commonwealth countries generally includes the sounding of “Last Post,” followed by the two minutes of silence, followed by the sounding of “Reveille” and finished by a recitation of the “Ode of Remembrance.” The “Flowers of the Forest”, “O Valiant Hearts”, “I Vow to Thee, My Country” are often played during the service. Services also include wreaths laid to honor the fallen, a blessing, and national anthems.

In Canada, Remembrance Day is a public holiday, as well as being a statutory holiday in nearly all the provinces. The official national ceremonies are held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, presided over by the Governor General of Canada, any members of the Canadian Royal Family, the Prime Minister and other dignitaries. Before the start of the ceremony, four armed sentries and three sentinels – two flag sentinels and one nursing sister – are posted at the foot of the cenotaph.

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IN FLANDERS FIELDS
Written by John McCraw in 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.

Canadian poet John McCrae was a medical officer in both the Boer War and World War I. A year into the latter war he published in Punch magazine, on December 8, 1915, the sole work by which he would be remembered. This poem commemorates the deaths of thousands of young men who died in Flanders during the grueling battles there. It created a great sensation and was used widely as a recruiting tool, inspiring other young men to join the Army. Legend has it that he was inspired by seeing the blood-red poppies blooming in the fields where many friends had died.

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LEST WE FORGET

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One response to this post.

  1. Lauralee, I appreciated this somber post. Perhaps if national leaders would all reflect on this more often, they would be more hesitant about heading to war.

    Reply

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