Your Ultimate Resource for Honoring Our Heroes

The Story of the Red Poppy




Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

Learn about the fascinating history behind the red poppy, a recognized symbol of Veterans Day. During World War I, amidst the destruction and devastation of the battles, bright red poppies began to bloom in the battle-scarred land. Inspired by this sight, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the famous poem “In Flanders Field,” honoring the fallen soldiers buried beneath the poppies. In response, Moina Michael, a volunteer at the Young Women’s Christian Association, wrote her own poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” and vowed to wear a poppy in remembrance. This led to the creation of the first red fabric poppies, which became a symbol of remembrance for returning veterans. Discover more about the red poppy and its significance, and engage in activities to deepen your understanding of Veterans Day and its traditions.

Veterans Day Activities: The Story of the Red Poppy

This image is property of

Veteran’s Day Activities: The Story of the Red Poppy

Veteran’s Day is a holiday observed annually to honor military veterans who gave their lives for our country. It is celebrated on November 11, the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” – the day and time that World War 1 ended. One recognized symbol of Veteran’s Day is the red poppy. In this article, we will explore the story of the red poppy, along with some fun facts, poppy poems, poem activities, and a poppy craft.

The Poppy Story

During World War I, known as the Great War, destruction was rampant across the Western Front, a stretch of land weaving through France and Belgium. The battles took a toll on fields, forests, and towns, tearing up trees and plants. However, in the early spring of 1915, red flowers began peeking through the battle-scarred land. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian brigade surgeon serving on the front lines near Flanders in northern Belgium, was inspired by the sight of these bright red blooms amidst the devastation. He wrote the poem “In Flanders Field,” channeling the voice of the fallen soldiers buried under the hardy poppies.

Just two days before the armistice, Moina Michael, a volunteer at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), wrote her own poem in response to “In Flanders Field.” Titled “We Shall Keep the Faith,” the poem expressed her vow to wear a poppy in remembrance. She also created the first red fabric poppies, which started the trend of wearing red poppies in support of returning veterans. In 1920, the American Legion, a veterans’ group, adopted the poppy symbol of remembrance for the soldiers who fought and died during the war. Red poppy silk flowers were made and sold to support veterans. Other nations have also embraced the “In Flanders Field” poem and adopted the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance.


This image is property of

Fun Facts

After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe, particularly in France and Belgium. Scientists attributed this growth to the soils in these regions becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew beautiful red poppies.

Veterans Day Activities: The Story of the Red Poppy

This image is property of

Poppy Poems

There are two famous poems associated with the red poppy and Veteran’s Day: “In Flanders Field” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae and “We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Michael.

“In Flanders Field” is a powerful and poignant poem that captures the essence of the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance. It speaks of the graves of fallen soldiers covered in poppies, urging the living to take up their cause and continue the fight for freedom.

“We Shall Keep the Faith” is Moina Michael’s response to “In Flanders Field.” It expresses her determination to honor the fallen soldiers by wearing a red poppy and continuing to support veterans.

Veterans Day Activities: The Story of the Red Poppy

This image is property of

Poem Activities

There are several activities that can be done with these poems to engage and educate students.

  1. Storytelling: Have students retell the story of the red poppy using their own words, incorporating details from both poems.

  2. Vocabulary Discussion: Select vocabulary words from one of the poems and discuss their meaning in the context of the poem. This will help students deepen their understanding of the poems and develop their vocabulary skills.

  3. Impact of “In Flanders Field”: Discuss how this poem influenced Moina Michael and led her to write “We Shall Keep the Faith.” Explore the impact of “In Flanders Field” on individuals and society as a whole.

  4. Impact of Moina’s Poem: Discuss how Moina’s poem impacted others and started the tradition of wearing red poppies. Explore how her poem connected people to the cause of supporting veterans.

  5. creation of National Holiday: Research and discuss how the adoption of the red poppy symbol by the American Legion led to the establishment of a national holiday in the United States. Explore how this tradition has carried over to other countries as well.

  6. Additional Research Topics: Encourage students to research one of the authors of the poems and write about the author’s motivations for writing the poem. They can also research how red poppies are used as symbols in other countries, or delve into the history of specific WWI battles and locations such as Flanders Field. Additionally, students can research why red poppies grew in ravaged areas while other plants did not, and what the various colors of poppies represent.

  7. Presentation: Have students create a PowerPoint presentation about poppies or any of the related topics they have researched. This will give them an opportunity to showcase their understanding and share their insights with their peers.

Veterans Day Activities: The Story of the Red Poppy

This image is property of

Poppy Craft

To further engage students in the theme of the red poppy, consider organizing a poppy craft activity. Here’s how you can do it:


  • Different sized red cupcake liners (or use one size and trim some to be smaller)
  • Black buttons or black foam stickers
  • Straws (green, if desired) or green pipe stem cleaners
  • Double-sided tape and glue dots or a glue gun (adult supervision required)

Trimming Cupcake Liners:

Using scissors that create a wavy line, trim the edges of the cupcake liners to give them a decorative appearance. This can be a great opportunity to practice scissor skills while discussing the concept of big and small.

Assembling the Poppy:

Place a smaller cupcake liner inside a larger one to create a layered effect. Use double-sided tape or glue dots to secure them together.

Next, attach a black button in the center of the cupcake liners to represent the poppy’s seeds. If you don’t have buttons, you can use black foam stickers as an alternative.

To create the stem, tape a straw to the back of the cupcake liners. Another option is to use green pipe stem cleaners for a more realistic look. An adult may need to use a glue gun for safety purposes when using pipe stem cleaners.

Students can create individual poppies or make a bouquet of poppies by assembling multiple flowers.

This poppy craft activity will not only allow students to get creative but also serve as a visual reminder of the significance of the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for veterans.

In conclusion, understanding the story behind the red poppy adds depth and meaning to the celebration of Veteran’s Day. Through exploring the history, poems, and craft activities related to the red poppy, students can develop a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made by our veterans and the importance of honoring their memory.

About the author

Latest posts

  • Veterans Day 2022 Nyc

    Veterans Day 2022 Nyc

    Get ready for an unforgettable Veterans Day 2022 in NYC! From parades to fireworks, learn about the history, celebrations, and tributes to honor our brave veterans.

    Read more

  • Veterans Day Statistics

    Veterans Day Statistics

    Discover fascinating statistics about Veterans Day, including the number of veterans, their age and gender distribution, employment rates, mental health issues, education levels, income and poverty rates, homelessness, and international comparisons. Gain insight into the contributions and challenges faced by veterans, emphasizing the importance of honoring and supporting them.

    Read more