Remembering Sacrifice

Poppy Day in the UK and Scandinavia

Every year, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, people across the United Kingdom and Scandinavia come together to commemorate a significant day in history. Poppy Day, also known as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, is an annual event observed to honour and remember the sacrifices of the armed forces who lost their lives during World War I and subsequent conflicts. 

The Origins of Poppy Day

Poppy Day, or Remembrance Day, has its origins in the aftermath of World War I, which officially ended with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918. The red poppy became a symbol of remembrance due to the famous war poem "In Flanders Fields," written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. In this poem, McCrae described the poppies that grew amidst the graves of soldiers in Flanders, a region in Western Belgium that witnessed intense fighting during the war.

In the UK, the Royal British Legion began the tradition of wearing red poppies as a symbol of remembrance in 1921, inspired by the poem. The funds raised from selling these poppies are used to support veterans and their families. A similar tradition emerged in Scandinavia, where poppies and other flowers are worn to honour fallen soldiers.

Poppy Day Traditions in the UK

In the United Kingdom, the main event on Poppy Day is the two-minute silence observed at 11 am, marking the exact moment when the Armistice took effect. People stand in silence to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers and reflect on the impact of war. Many towns and cities in the UK hold parades, with veterans, military personnel, and various organisations participating.

Additionally, the Royal British Legion organises the Festival of Remembrance, a televised event featuring musical performances and testimonies, often attended by members of the British royal family.

Wearing a red poppy is a significant tradition during the lead-up to Poppy Day. These poppies are usually sold by volunteers, and the funds raised go towards supporting veterans and their families.


Poppy Day Traditions in Scandinavia

Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden also commemorate the sacrifices of their soldiers on November 11th. While the traditions vary from country to country, they all involve the wearing of poppies or similar flowers.

In Denmark, the day is known as "Flag Day" (Flagdagen), and it's a time when Danes honour their soldiers, especially those who have served in international missions. People wear small blue cornflowers to commemorate the day. The blue cornflower is a symbol of remembrance and solidarity with veterans.

In Norway, it's known as "Veterans Day" (Veterandagen), and the day is dedicated to recognising the contributions of both current and former military personnel. The red poppy is commonly worn, and ceremonies take place at war memorials across the country.

Sweden's tradition, similar to Denmark and Norway, includes wearing a blue flower, the blue anemone, to honour veterans on Veterans Day. This day is a solemn occasion for remembering the sacrifices made by Swedish military personnel.

Poppy Day in the UK and Veterans Day in Scandinavia serve as poignant reminders of the human cost of war and the importance of honouring those who have served their nations. These traditions, rooted in the aftermath of World War I, have continued to evolve and adapt to modern times, but their central message of remembrance and gratitude remains unchanged. Wearing a red poppy or its Scandinavian equivalent is not just a symbol; it's a profound expression of respect and appreciation for the sacrifices made by servicemen and women in the past and present.

We will remember them.

Posted by Felicity Crome
11th November 2023

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