Britain remembers war dead
Updated: 2013-11-08 07:22
By Zhang Chunyan (China Daily)
During London's damp and chilly days of November, the ubiquitous red Flanders poppies are eye-catching.
In subways and buses, many commuters who are walking in a hurry wear artificial poppies; at railway stations, volunteers are collecting poppy donations.
On the road, there are poppies on the front of some of London's iconic black taxis; on the top pages of some newspapers are poppies.
On TV, hosts, celebrities and politicians - including British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson - all wear poppies.
My two friends from Beijing were curious and asked about this. In fact, I asked the same question when I first came to London.
In Britain, November is when people wear red poppies in memory of those who sacrificed their lives during the two world wars and other conflicts.
Poppy Day, which is also called Remembrance Day, is on Nov 11, the anniversary of the signing of the 1918 armistice that ended World War I.
The Royal British Legion, a charity dedicated to helping war veterans, sells poppy to raise money for veterans, and calls it the Poppy Day Appeal. Anyone who donates at least 1 pound ($1.61) will get an artificial poppy to wear.
More than 2,000 volunteers are collecting poppy donations across London this year in the largest street collection in Europe. Even though the volunteers are not loudly soliciting, people freely contribute.
At a poppy donation stand outside a central London railway station, two friends and I saw an elderly woman with white hair, wearing an elegant sapphire blue coat, softly put a coin into the donation box, then take a poppy and wear it expertly. She told us she has donated for Poppy Day for many years.
After several minutes, two more people who passed by both donated and wore the poppies.
For countries all over the world, how to cherish the memory of those who died in wars and how to care for veterans are common issues.
What impressed us is that Remembrance Day has become a part of British people's lives. People are spontaneous in their ideas and actions during the Poppy Day Appeal. Everything is done in a soft, silent but popular way.
Besides the Poppy Day Appeal, special services are held at war memorials and churches all over Britain on Remembrance Sunday, which is usually the Sunday nearest Nov 11.
Each year, a national ceremony takes place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. The queen lays the first wreath at the Cenotaph.
People also leave small wooden crosses with poppies by memorials in remembrance of a family member who died in war.
It's worth mentioning how the poppy gained its exclusive status. During World War I, red poppies were among the first plants to spring up in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium. In soldiers' folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground.
Keep calm and carry on.
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