The poppy – what it’s all about

Posted On: Thursday, 04 May 2017
Poppy Program

For nearly a century the American Legion Auxiliary poppy has been pinned on jacket lapels, hats, and other clothing items to honor the sacrifices of the men and women who served and died defending our freedom. Our red crepe paper poppy has become synonymous with the American Legion Auxiliary brand. Although the poppy is traditionally distributed and worn around Memorial Day and Veterans Day, there are many ways to wear the poppy year-round and distribute other poppy items to raise funds for the American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Program.

Where did the poppy tradition originate?

The poppy, which symbolizes freedom and the blood sacrificed by troops during war, comes from the poem In Flanders Fields. Written by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, the poem refers to the poppies that grew out of newly dug soldiers’ graves during World War I in Europe. Moina Michael, a teacher from Georgia, read the poem while attending a YMCA Overseas Conference. She wrote her response to the poem and vowed to keep the promise by always wearing a red poppy to honor those who died.

The American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy as its memorial flower in 1921 and started its Poppy Program in 1924. Today, ALA members distribute millions of poppies annually across the country in exchange for donations that go directly to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans in our communities. They raise more than $5-6 million annually to provide support for veterans.

How can ALA members distribute the poppy for donations?

American Legion Auxiliary members can expand the Poppy Program like never before, thanks to updated resolutions adopted by The American Legion. Funds can be used to purchase kits and supplies to make poppy items that will be distributed for donations. Poppy items should be made by veterans whenever possible, but if veterans are unavailable to make them, they can be made commercially or by unit members. Think about involving your Junior members on fun poppy crafts!

How else can you sport a poppy year-round?

In addition to the handmade poppy, there are many contemporary and creative ways to use the poppy as a symbol. The poppy can easily be worn year-round with T-shirts, bags, pins, scarves, charms, and other accessories. Placing a beautiful felt or crochet poppy on a sweater or adding a poppy charm to a bracelet are quick and easy ways to add a color pop of symbolism to your outfit.

Is the poppy popular only in the U.S.?

The poppy is used in other countries, although American Moina Michael came up with the idea of wearing poppies. The Royal British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million poppies to be sold Nov. 11 that year. The poppy has been seen on Queen Elizabeth II, the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, and many others. Scotland also began distributing the poppies in 1926. The Royal Canadian Legion also has a Poppy Campaign to honor those who serve. It’s not hard to see why the idea of honoring those who have died defending their country and raising funds to support past and present veterans is popular in many regions.

Not a member of the American Legion Auxiliary but want to help honor U.S. servicemembers? Wear a poppy and help us celebrate the inaugural National Poppy Day, which takes place May 26, the Friday before Memorial Day.

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.