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Poppy etiquette: What to know

Thu 10 Nov 2016

On the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" Brits pause for two minutes to commemorate those who have died in battle since World War I.

In the run-up to Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day as it is unofficially called, people wear a red poppy, that is often made of paper, in their lapel. You may have noticed veterans in their uniforms at public places selling them.  

The money you purchase the poppy for is actually a donation to the The Royal British Legion, which supports veterans and members of the British Armed Forces.

If you would like to join in with this custom you'll need to know the following.

When should I start wearing a poppy?

As mentioned in our Ask A Brit article, people start wearing them from mid-October, although the official poppy campaign doesn’t normally start until the penultimate week of October. This is when most people start wearing them, although some wait until the start of November before pinning theirs on.

How much money should I give?

When you buy a poppy, you’ll be expected to give a donation to either the charity collector or to the charity box next to the poppies. There’s no limit on what to put in but it’s always nice to give them some ‘proper’ change instead of a few copper coins, so be as generous as you can.

Where should I put it?

Most people wear the poppy on the chest on their coats/jackets, so people can see them when they’re out and about. Some believe that men should wear their poppy on the left of their chest and women on the right, but the Royal British Legion say that the only rule is to “wear it with pride”. Some cars and buses also ‘wear’ poppies, but it’s not so common.

Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red -  2014 Art Installation at the Tower of London

Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red -  2014 Art Installation at the Tower of London

Do I have to wear a poppy?

Nobody will force you to buy one. Only wear one if you’re comfortable with it. War is a sensitive subject for all, so don’t feel obligated to do so. If you want to put it on your coat, make sure to pick up a pin with your poppy so you can attach it securely.

What colour poppy should I wear?

Again, this is up to you. The red poppy is the traditional poppy to wear, with all proceeds going to the Royal British Legion, who support serving members and veterans of the British Armed Forces and their families.

The white poppy, produced by the Peace Pledge Union, represents peace. Started in 1933 by the Women’s Co-operative Guild, the white poppy commemorates killed civilians as well as soldiers.

Purple poppies have been created by Animal Aid to commemorate service animals that have died in battle. These two poppies can be worn as an alternative to the red poppy, or to compliment it.

What happens on 11/11/2016 at 11am and why?

A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. The first two-minute silence in Britain was held on 11 November 1919, when King George V asked the public to observe a silence at 11am.

There is also Remembrance Sunday every year, which falls on the second Sunday in November. This year it will fall on Sunday 13 November.

On this day, there are usually ceremonies at war memorials, cenotaphs and churches throughout the country, as well as abroad. The Royal Family and top politicians gather at The Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, for a memorial service and the nation, again observes a two minute silence.

Front page poppy image: S. Pakhrin (Flickr)

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