What is so special about a poppy on Remembrance Day? Why not use a pansy? Scarlet poppies grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century, transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as the First World War raged through Europe’s heart.

The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realised by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in the First World War and later conflicts. Here’s few lines from the poem:

‘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.’

When fighting ceased in 1918 the mud of the battlefields was allowed to rest and nature began to be restored and before long the wild flowers grew and bloomed including the poppy. The colour of red reminded people of bloodshed and the sacrifice by millions of brave soldiers of their lives. And so the poppy became the symbol of sacrifice.

We, in the Christian Church, also have a symbol. It’s the Cross of Jesus. One of His great sayings is: ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). And that’s what He did for us.

Two great symbols of sacrifice – the Poppy and the Cross.