Memorial Day History. Why Poppies for Memorial Day?

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed in 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. 

• The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873
• 1890 - Memorial Day was recognized by all northern states. 
• The South refused to acknowledge the day until after World War I

What changed? The holiday now honors all Americans who died fighting in any war, not just those that died fighting in the Civil War. 

• Some southern states still have a separate day honoring the Confederate war dead: 
 January 19 in Texas
 April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi
 May 10 in South Carolina
 June 3  in Louisiana and Tennessee, which just happens to be Jefferson Davis' birthday

Memorial Day (Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, Armistice Day) is a day to remember those of the armed service who gave their lives in service to their country since World War I. 

How did poppies come to symbolize Veterans? 
The poppies symbolize the rows and rows of graves that were witnessed by Colonel John McCrae, a surgeon with Canada's First Brigade Artillery,  at Flanders' Battlefield in western Belgium during World War I. McCrae summarized his feelings in his know well known poem, In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD - Canadian Army (1872-1918) 

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.


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