Of course, we're all familiar with the wreath-laying ceremony, which is one of the deep traditions of the Remembrance Day celebration. The first Remembrance Day was on Tuesday, November 11th, 1919, at 11 am. So the tradition of Remembrance is only slightly older than the symbolic use of the Remembrance Poppy, which is 100 years old this year.


The lovely flower captured in Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's poem 'In Flander's Fields' has so much more behind it than the poem's poignant words.

In some cultures, like the Persians, the poppy represents deep and passionate love, while in others, it symbolises evil. The early Egyptians revered them as an emblem of blood and new life. On the other hand, the Celts associated poppies with sleep and mixed them with food to make children sleepy.

The poppy also represents Ceres, the Roman goddess of crop fertility and Aphrodite, the goddess of love and vegetation; and Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams.

And finally, they are also associated with pleasure and extravagance.

The symbolism of poppies is both ancient and extensive. It includes the relevance of colour that incorporates the black poppy (for black, African and Caribbean servicemen, servicewomen and civilians) and the controversial white poppy, commemorating lives lost while emphasising peace and including enemy fallen and civilian victims.

The Remembrance Poppy shows respect, and solemnity especially since World War I and symbolises the sorrow, loss and eternal sleep of the fallen.

In Canada, we wear the red Remembrance Poppy on the left lapel above the heart to commemorate the sacrifice of our Veterans. Some exceptions to this are wearing the poppy on a hat or beret, often done by First Responders and military units.


One of the most potent symbols in human culture and history, the circle is found in all civilisations, transcending local, national and cultural boundaries. The symbol is divine, sacred and universal. It denotes inclusivity, wholeness and protection, and spiritual energy.

The Ancient Celts saw it as both the symbol of the cosmos and the protective boundary that no enemy or evil could cross.

For Northern First Nations, the circle embodies spiritual energy, which includes the energy of the symbol itself and all it represents in nature and the universe and the healing of our spirits.

In alchemical terms, it is the centre point of focus. It is the space of companionship and safety as depicted by fire in the centre.

In Chinese culture, it represents the shape of heaven.

In nature and art, there are no straight lines, only circles and curves. We see it in Leonardo Da Vinci's work and Dr Carl Jung's view that the circle is the geometric archetype of the psyche. We see the relationship between the circle and the square in these works, representing our bodily form.


It is no surprise then that the poppy wreath is a meaningful symbol on Remembrance Day. It captures our thoughts and memories. It places the focus firmly on the names of all who have given their lives in wars past. It represents our respect for those who continue to risk their lives for the sake of peace.


While the official ceremony at The Cenotaph in Victoria Park includes laying wreaths, there is no limit to the number of wreaths that can be laid. As a community member, you are both entitled and welcome to lay a wreath after the ceremony.

Joss Rowlands

Joss Rowlands

My grandfather died in World War I, when my mother was only 6-months old.  They never met. His service records were lost in a fire, although he was mentioned in Dispatches. I am the only relative in our family line who can stand for his memory.
The rest of the time, I'm a writer, coach, gardener, reader, knitter, grandmother, cat-mother, spouse and dabbler in all sorts of neuroscience.

North Shore Veterans’ Council Canada