On a drizzly day in London, I kept dry at a Pret a Manger, which we sadly don’t have in Italy, before making my way to Westminster Abby. I was not in the mood to pay the 15 pound entrance fee, so I wandered the grounds outside. There, volunteers were nailing thousands of wooden crosses embellished with poppies into the ground for Remembrance Day, which honors fallen soldiers on Nov. 11, the same day as Veteran’s Day in America (though Remembrance Day is more like our Memorial Day).
When I was in England, everyone sported an artificial poppy on his or her lapel—even the Harry Potter children. The U.K. Royal British Legion receives the money from this campaign, similar to the one the Veterans of Foreign Wars holds in the United States.
For thousands of years, poppies have symbolized sleep, death, resurrection and now war remembrance. A World War I poem titled In Flanders Fields inspired an American to initiate the first poppy tribute, which has continued for decades across several continents. The poem references the flowers (symbolic of spilled blood), which were found on many battlefields in Flanders.Ironically, poppies also represent a problem for our current soldiers fighting the heroin trade in Afghanistan. I recently read a proposal that would support Afghan farmers growing opium poppies for legal purposes (as it is in other countries for opium-based medicines such as morphine). Perhaps one day poppies will also symbolize positive economic growth and self-sufficiency in war-torn areas.