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Weekend Fun: Memorial Day Poppies

On the last Monday of the month, we celebrate Memorial Day, when we honor and remember those who died fighting to keep our country free. This tradition began after the Civil War because of the many lives that were lost, but it took more than 100 years for it to become a federal holiday (many states had it as an official holiday before that).

On Memorial Day, we may see a parade, put wreaths or flowers on the graves of those who served in the military, and have family gatherings. Many towns have ceremonies to honor those who served. Franklin Township will have one in the Municipal Complex at 12:00 noon on Monday:

You may see veterans outside of supermarkets and other places selling the red poppies. Why are poppies associated with Memorial Day? During World War I, a soldier named John McCrae was tending the wounded in Flanders (now part of Belgium). He saw the red poppies on the battlefield and wrote this poem to honor those who had fallen:

“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae

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.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Moina Michael, a college professor from Georgia, was moved by this poem and started to make red poppies out of silk. She sold them to support the veterans returning from the war, and the tradition continues to this day.

The Library is closed for the Memorial Day Weekend, but you will find a number of books about Memorial Day on Hoopla. You can download the free Hoopla app, register with your library card, and enjoy ebooks and audio books at no charge.

Make your own red paper poppies to decorate your home in remembrance:

How to Make Red Paper Poppies

What you need:

  • Assorted scraps of red paper, any size
  • Pipe cleaner (a.k.a. chenille stem)
  • Small black paper circle
  • Scissors
  • Red crayons, ink, markers, etc.

What you do:

  1. Cut circles in different sizes from the red paper. If you don’t have red paper, color some white paper red with crayons or paint. Have at least three circles, but you can use more if you want a fuller, frillier flower. The circles don’t have to be even – poppies have wavy edges and are not perfectly round.
  2. Add some texture and dimension by stamping with inks, coloring with red crayons or markers, or anything at hand. You can even use a little bit of red paint and a sponge! Ink around the edges of each circle using the ink pad (or a sponge pressed in ink or a little paint).
  3. Arrange the circles from largest (on the bottom) to smallest (on the top). Poke two holes at the center of each circle using a sharp pencil. Then push the pipe cleaner up through the center of one hole in each circle and back down through each of the other holes to hold the flowers together. Twist the end of the pipe cleaner around itself.
  4. Glue the black paper circle in the middle of the smallest red circle to cover the pipe cleaner and form the poppy’s center.
  5. Put your poppy in a vase or a jar – or wrap the pipe cleaner stem around a button on your clothing or around an item in your home. Better yet, if you know someone who served in the military, give it to them and say thank you.

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