“At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, fighting ceased between the Allied nations and Germany, effectively ending World War I.
In 1919, US President Woodrow Wilson and English King George V each issued a proclamation naming November 11th “Armistice Day.” The day was set aside in the United States and the British Commonwealth for reflection and remembrance of those who died fighting in the First World War.
The Canadian federal government renamed the day, “Remembrance Day” in 1931. The US government followed suit in 1954, renaming the day, “Veterans Day”. Along with the new names came a shift of focus from the veterans and war efforts of World War I to a general recognition of all those who have served in their nation’s armed forces.
The red poppy has been used to commemorate war dead since World War I. In the US, poppies are traditionally passed out by veterans groups around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. In Canada, the poppy is worn during the two weeks prior to Remembrance Day.
The practice of wearing poppies originated with the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He wrote the poem in 1915, following the funeral of a friend killed in battle. His imagery of fields of poppy flowers was inspired by the abundance of poppies growing in the disturbed soil of battlefields in the Belgian region of Flanders. After publication of the poem, the poppy became a symbol of the soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country.
Stahls’ thanks all veterans for their 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