Poppies have an enduring association with Anzac Day, dating back to the 1920s. Throughout New Zealand, people of all ages wear a red poppy as a mark of remembrance for the men and women who have died in the course of service for their country. Poppies made of light cloth or paper are also woven together to form wreathes which are laid at war memorials up and down the country.
The poppies are a vivid reminder of the sacrifice – the blood lost – in war. The connection between red poppies and fallen service personnel has its origins in the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century; red or Flanders poppies were the first flowers to bloom over the graves of soldiers in northern France and Belgium.
It was in the same region – the Western Front – a century later that red poppies were once more associated with those who died in war. Canadian medical officer John McCrae penned the famous and moving lines
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.
After the First World War, the red poppy gradually became recognised as a symbol of remembrance. The shape of the poppy has undergone several changes over the years, and today’s design was adopted in 1978.