Remembrance Day Observance

We will observe a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. today to remember the men and women who have fallen during war and conflict.

The YMCA’s history with the Poppy

The appearance of poppies on lapels and coats is apparent every fall. Over 18 million of these flowers are sold in Canada every year for Remembrance Day, which marks the armistice that ended the First World War on November 11, 1918.

The tradition began in 1915, when John McCrae, a physician who served in the Canadian Field Artillery, wrote his now famous poem, In Flanders Fields, while he sat on the back of an ambulance looking out over thousands of crosses that marked the graves of soldiers. The battlefield, rich in lime from rubble, allowed the poppies to thrive and blossom.

The YMCA connection begins when Miss Moina Michael, who was working for the American Overseas YMCA Secretaries in New York City, stumbled on McCrae’s poem in Ladies Home Journal, after which she resolved to wear a poppy every year in memory of the millions who died on the battlefield.

In 1920, Moina Michael met Madame E. Guérin, a visitor from France, at the YMCA at Columbia University, with whom she shared her resolve. After their meeting, Madame Guérin began selling handmade poppies around Armistice Day to raise money for poor children in the war-torn areas of Europe.

In 1921, Madame Guérin visited Canada and convinced the Great War Veterans Association (predecessor to the Royal Canadian Legion) to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in aid of fundraising and in November 1921 poppies were first distributed in Canada. Thus began the Canadian tradition of wearing a poppy on November 11th in memory of those who died on the battlefield in Flanders Fields.