In Canada every year on the 11th day of November we commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war. We call this day 'Remembrance Day'. On this day there are ceremonies held at the Cenotaphs in most Canadian cities and towns with the laying of wreaths to honour the war dead. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on this date in 1918. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.
In the days leading up to 'Remembrance Day' you often see Canadians, particularly those of the older generations, wearing red poppies in their lapels. Over the years this day has been both widely celebrated and ignored. The notion of remembering dead soldiers has become politicized by some who choose to recognize it as a sign of support for war, particularly in light of the current participation of Canada in Afghanistan.
The red poppy is in fact a symbol of peace, or perhaps the desire for peace is a better way in which to frame it. The wearing of the poppy, together with an understanding of the phrase 'Lest We Forget", is meant to invoke a willingness to work together in order to create a peaceful world. Lest we forget the terrible price of war, we wear the poppy as a reminder of that cost. Perhaps it is an irrational notion to hope that human beings can actually learn from history, and stop trying to annihilate one another; the poppy stands as a marker of that hope. In my own life I have worked as a peace activist and wear the poppy as a symbol of my desire for peace.
Today I will wear it in tribute to the members of my family whose lives were affected by war, whether they were soldiers or citizens.