The week I moved to London I noticed a strange phenomenon: everyone I passed on the street wore a red paper flower pinned to their coat. Being new to the city, I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Was it a fashion trend? A local tradition? Somebody help a foreign girl out! After much observation, I learned that these pins were poppies, and they were worn in honor of Poppy Day.

Poppies at the Tower of London

Poppy Day, also called Remembrance Day, takes place in the UK every year on November 11th—the day that World War I hostilities ended in 1918—and commemorates the members of the armed forces that have lost their lives in battle. It’s similar to Veterans Day in the US (and takes place on the same day), but is celebrated with poppies—a nod to the flowers that grew in the battlefields of Flanders during World War I—instead of general apathy.

Poppies at the Tower of London

Every year in the run-up to Poppy Day, The Royal British Legion sells the paper flower pins in tube stations, supermarkets, and other busy areas to raise money for its welfare work for armed forces families. Many people buy the pins, wearing them in memory of the fallen and confusing fresh-off-the-plane expats like myself.

Poppies at the Tower of London

But the commemoration doesn’t stop there. Black cab drivers affix big red poppies to the fronts of their taxis, city councils tie them around lamp posts, and people lay wreaths full of them at the foot of World War I memorials around the country.

Poppies at the Tower of London

Tomorrow will be a particularly special Poppy Day, as this year is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. As such, Londoners are not only pinning on their poppies, but also taking the commemoration to the next level.

Poppies at the Tower of London

In addition to museum exhibitions, ceremonial events, and the traditional two minutes of silence at 11am, there is a huge art installation at the Tower of London that features 888,246 ceramic poppies—one for every British fatality in World War I.

Poppies at the Tower of London

The exhibition is one of the most beautiful and powerful displays of memory I’ve seen in London, and a great tribute to the fallen. Its fields and waves of poppies have drawn visitors from all over the world since its installation over the summer, and are an evocative and moving commemoration of Poppy Day.

Poppies at the Tower of London

And now that I actually know what Poppy Day is, I’m one of the many locals, expats, and visitors leaning over the guard rail to see the ceramic flower field and taking a moment to be thankful for those that gave their lives.

34 Comments on Lady Commemorates Poppy Day

  1. I didn’t know anything about Poppy Day until I read this! Thanks for this informative post. I like the lovely red flowers all over the place! The way they have been adorned is quite unique.

  2. What a beautiful way to remember the fallen! It must be incredibly moving to see that sea of red and understand what it represents. The U.S. could learn something from this!

  3. I can’t get over how beautiful and moving that poppy display is at the Tower of London. Here in Canada we do the same poppy thing” – the Canadian legion sells poppies to be worn on your coat (but they keep falling off so then you have to buy a new one!) in memory of those who lost their lives in all wars. November 11th there are ceremonies to honour the fallen at local cenotaphs (the one in Ottawa is televised nation wide) and is a stat holiday in most provinces. (although not all) Wreaths are placed on the centotaph and people place their poppies on it as well so it makes for a colourful sight for a few days afterwards…

  4. I was in London during the days leading up to Remembrance Day in 2011 and experienced the same confusion with regard to the poppies. Eventually, I figured out what it symbolized and bought a poppy pin in support of the campaign. And when my husband went to Manchester last weekend, he returned with a souvenir for me — a red poppy pin. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures.

  5. Great pictures! I think it’s really important to remember those who have fallen and it’s great to hear that similar remembrance ceremonies are held across the world. I shall be wearing my poppy with pride tomorrow 🙂

  6. Dear Lady, You are way to young to remember the era in the US when children would buy paper poppies at school and wear them in honor of the soldiers who died in the war. This was in the 1940s, so you auntie thought it was the soldiers who’d died in World War II. We were told that it was injured soldiers who made the flower poppies. They were all a little different, so I think they were hand made. Gorgeous photos!

  7. Fmous Poem:
    In Flanders Fields
    By John McCrae, May 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.

  8. This is one of the most beautiful and meaningful (not to mention creative) art displays I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad I got to see it before I left London last month but I would’ve loved to view it completely done today!

  9. It may be a bit odd, but the first time I noticed poppies as some sort of commemoration was when I started watching all the Top Gear episodes on Netflix, and each season there was an episode where the hosts wore poppies on their coats. I never knew what they were for and I finally looked it up. I heard about the display on BBC Radio 1 yesterday. I’m glad you shared pictures, it’s absolutely beautiful and a very moving memorial.

  10. I fell in love with this tradition when studying overseas and missed the poppies this year. They’re really a lovely remembrance.

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