The Poppy Campaign begins on the last Friday in October and continues through to November 11th.
The Lapel Poppy can be worn every day of the Poppy Campaign and is removed at the end of the Remembrance Day ceremony. Many people place their poppy on a wreath or at the base of the cenotaph or memorial as a sign of respect at the end of the ceremony.
The poppy may be worn at commemorative events throughout the year, such as anniversaries of significant battles, a memorial service, and other similar occasions. (Event organizers should seek advice from the Royal Canadian Legion on the use of the poppy for events outside of the Poppy Campaign.)
The Royal Canadian Legion suggests that the poppy be worn on the left lapel of a garment and as close to the heart as possible.
The poppy became widespread in Europe after soils in France and Belgium became rich in lime from debris and rubble from the fighting during the First World War. These little red flowers also flourished around the gravesites of the war dead.
In 1915, John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Canadian Artillery, famously made note of this phenomenon in his poem, In Flanders Fields.
On Saturday November 9, 1918, two days before the Armistice, Moina Michael was on duty in the reading room at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ headquarters in New York—a place where U.S. servicemen would often gather with friends and family to say their goodbyes before they went overseas. After reading McCrae’s poem, Moina made a personal pledge to always wear the red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance and for “keeping the faith with all who died.”
In 1920, Anna Guérin—the French Poppy Lady—attended the national American Legion convention as a representative of France’s YMCA Secretariat. She was inspired by Moina Michael’s idea of the poppy as a memorial flower and felt that the scope of the Memorial Poppy could be expanded to help the needy. She suggested that artificial poppies could be made and sold as a way of raising money for the benefit of orphaned children and others who had suffered greatly as a result of the war.
In 1921, Madame Guérin visited Canada and convinced the Great War Veterans Association of Canada (predecessor to the Royal Canadian Legion) to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in aid of fundraising; which it did on July 5th of that year.
Today, the Poppy Campaign is one of the Royal Canadian Legion’s most important programs. The money raised from donations provides direct assistance for Veterans in financial distress, as well as funding for medical equipment, medical research, home services, long term care facilities and many other purposes.