When is Remembrance Day 2019, what does it commemorate and why do people wear poppies?

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Each year, the period leading up to Remembrance Day sees red poppies suddenly appearing on the lapels of people across the UK.

There remains much debate as to what exactly the red poppy signifies, and whether refusing to wear one or wearing different coloured poppies is disrespectful.

Respectful remembrance or partisan war-mongering? The debate continues. Picture: Shutterstock

Respectful remembrance or partisan war-mongering? The debate continues. Picture: Shutterstock

On Monday 11 November, countries around the world will observe Remembrance Day in one form or another, with many using the red poppy as their chosen symbol.

Read More: Remembrance Day 2019: Why do we have two-minute silence? Where does it come from?

What does Remembrance Day commemorate?

Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War.

Each year, it is observed in countries from across the Commonwealth and beyond, as they take the opportunity to remember those lost in the war, usually focusing on those who died in combat.

Even the white poppy, designed as a symbol of peace, has come under fire in recent times. Picture: Shutterstock

Even the white poppy, designed as a symbol of peace, has come under fire in recent times. Picture: Shutterstock

The first official Remembrance Day ceremony took place at Buckingham Palace in 1919, with King George V playing host to French President Raymond Poincaré as the allied nations joined together in mourning.

A minute's silence is usually held at 11am in recognition of the exact moment when hostilities officially ceased. There are also wreath-laying ceremonies across the UK.

Why do some people wear red poppies?

The tradition of wearing red poppies on Remembrance Day has its origins in John McCrae's 1915 poem, In Flanders Fields, which describes the poppies growing between the crosses marking the graves of fallen soldiers.

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row". Picture: Shutterstock

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row". Picture: Shutterstock

The Royal British Legion, a charity which provides support to British veterans and their families, then took it on as a symbol, starting with their first Poppy Appeal in 1921, which raised over £100,000.

To date, it has brought in over £3 billion – or over a pound-per-second since the war ended.

Why do some people choose not to wear a poppy?

While the Royal British Legion has always maintained that the red poppy “is a symbol of peace inclusive of all regardless of race, belief, origin, or sexual/gender identity...and is above partisan and political interpretation”, many do not believe this to be the case.

With its specific ties to the military, the red poppy is seen by many as a symbol that glamorises the war, rather than commemorating the dead. It’s also been suggested that politicians have exploited the poppy to justify further wars.

For those with ties to places in which the British Army has committed acts of violence against civilians in recent memory, this can be seen as particularly troubling.

Why do some people wear white poppies?

The white poppy was launched in 1933 as a symbol to mourn the dead while emphasising the “never-again” message, which was feared to have been lost amidst militaristic commemorations.

In modern times, white poppies have been distributed by the UK's pacifist charity, the Peace Pledge Union. They have proven especially popular recently – around 100,000 are sold each year.

However, these poppies have become as controversial as the red ones, with many claiming that anything but a red poppy undermines the impact of Remembrance Day.

What other colours of poppy do people wear?

Black poppies have been used to specifically commemorate the sacrifices of black, African and Caribbean people, which are commonly overlooked.

Previously, there were also purple poppies, supplied by Animal Aid in remembrance of the animal lives lost in war, but they were discontinued after the charity concluded that their message was becoming distorted.

While they do not supply them, the Royal British Legion has also made clear that it fully supports the wearing of all colours of poppy.