The History of the Poppy

For over 90 years, the Poppy has been a symbol of honour and ultimate sacrifice, inspired by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields, written in May 1915.

In Canada, the Poppy has stood as a visual symbol of our Remembrance since 1921. However, its presence over the graves of soldiers, and in the fields of honour, was noted as early as the 19th century after the Napoleonic Wars. The reason for its adoption over 100 years later in Canada was due to, in no small part, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae and his now famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”.

This poem, written in May, 1915 on the day following the death of a fellow soldier, would serve as inspiration three years later for an American teacher, Moina Michael, who made a personal pledge after reading the poem to always wear a Poppy as a sign of Remembrance. In 1920, during a visit to the United States, a French woman, Madame Guerin, learned of the custom and decided to sell handmade Poppies to raise money for the children in war-torn areas of the country. Following her example, the Poppy was officially adopted by the Great War Veteran’s Association in Canada (our predecessor) as its Flower of Remembrance on July 5, 1921.

Today we encourage all Canadians to proudly wear a Poppy.



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.

~ 3 May 1915   John McCrae

(As published in Punch Magazine, 8 December 1915)