Memorial Day in America is dedicated to the fallen U.S military personnel while serving the country. Formerly known as Decoration Day, the holiday is observed by decorating tombs and graves with flags, wreaths, and flowers – especially red poppies. But why poppies?  Read along to learn about why poppies are used also banknotes you can find them on.

Poppies on a Grave | Source: San Antonio Report

In Flanders Fields 

It was from April to May of 1915 that Canadian physician Lt.Col. John McCrae witnessed the bloodshed during the second battle of Ypres in the province of West Flanders in Belgium. Only on its 17th day of the battle, McCrae had already lost half of his army, including his close friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. And as he laid his friend to eternal repose, McCrae found himself in the middle of the makeshift grave covered with poppies. The red flowers bloomed between crosses, turning the tormented ground into a beautiful landscape and inspiring McCrae to write the poem “In Flanders Fields” the next day.  

Canada 10 Dollars ft. poppies | 2003 | P-102d | Source: Banknote World

The poem became the symbol of the sacrifice of those who fought in the First World War. Its first paragraph and its French adaptation, “Au Champ D’Honneur” by Jean Pariseau. It is displayed alongside poppy flowers on the reverse of the 2003 issue of the Canadian 10 Dollar banknote.  

About Poppy Flowers 

Poppy flowers are a symbol of tranquility, serenity, hope, and death, probably because of their opium which is known to be a sedative and their blood-red color which represents death. They were also used as offerings to the dead in the Greek and Roman mythologies and as a decoration of the chest from Egyptian King Tutankhamun’s tomb. A scene in the children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, also showed some characters being lulled to slumber by a field of poppies.  

Poppy Flowers | Source: Gardening Know How

Poppy Flowers on Banknotes  

The reverse of the 2003 Macedonian 500 denari banknote shows a poppy blossom. In addition to other flowering plants while the obverse depicts a 6th century BC golden tin death mask.  

North Macedonia 500 Denari Banknote, 2003 | Source: Banknote World

A foil poppy flower is also displayed on the front side of the Guernsey 20 Pound banknote. It was issued in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I.  

Guernsey 20 Pounds Banknote, 2018 | Source: Banknote World

Today, the National Poppy Day falls every Friday before the Memorial Day. It is held every last Monday of May, at the beginning of summer. It’s the time of year when most flowers, including poppies, bloom. 

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