Red Poppies, White Poppies, No Poppies

Comments 11 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Photo credit: david on Flickr

Last year I included a note about the great poppy debate in a blog post. I first heard about white poppies through a BBC article in 2006, and also from DaveO, who does an amazing White Poppies series on his podcast year-round.

Both red and white are the colour of the poppy, and if you’ve read the poem In Flanders Fields, you know they grew, between the crosses row on row (however I would bet even the white ones were red during those WWI years).

Some say the this traditional red symbol that we pin to our lapel for the month of November glorifies war and sacrifice and we should change the colour to white – in support of peace.

The White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers. Our work, primarily educational, draws attention to many of our social values and habits which make continuing violence a likely outcome. [White Poppies for Peace]

On the flip side, there are groups that are so outraged they would like to see the white poppy banned.

The Legion is claiming the white poppy campaign is illegal because it infringes on their trademark symbol. The veterans’ organization says it turns their symbol of sacrifice into a political position. [Edmonton – 2006]

Photo credit: amortize on Flickr

With an overall general sentiment of remembrance, organizations argue that it should be entirely acceptable to wear alternate symbols and even have alternative ceremonies on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (ie. placing wreaths of white poppies at cenotaphs across the nation).

“For many people the red poppy has become a symbol that is being used to justify and promote war,” explains Claire Hurtig, a local activist and union organizer in Montreal. “The white poppy is an alternative way to remember war, but also to protest war as an institution in our society, [especially] as the Conservative government is putting more and more money into the military and not into social programs, leading to hugely detrimental impacts on our society.” []

I think everyone has their own way in which they commemorate historic, tragic, and heroic events.

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11 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Duane StoreySunday, November 9th, 2008 — 1:41pm PST

    My understand, and I could be wrong, is that money is made for certain organizations by the sale of the red poppy, and that they indeed do have some trademark for it. So changing to white not only affects the symbolic nature of the poppy, but also the money obtained from selling the red poppy that ultimately funds some of the veterans programs.

  2. lucSunday, November 9th, 2008 — 1:49pm PST

    Where can one get a white poppy in Vancouver?
    One can still wear a white one to support the peace movement and donate to the veterans programs directly.

  3. Miss604Sunday, November 9th, 2008 — 1:55pm PST

    @ Luc – I’ll ask Dave where you can get them, I can’t seem to find anything online right now (shocking, I know) aside from the UK site and another site that says most white poppies are homemade.

  4. tyfnSunday, November 9th, 2008 — 2:11pm PST

    There is also nothing that stops people from wearing the white poppy during the rest of the year to support peace. I hadn’t heard of the white poppy until today. During the Remembrance Day period, I think the red is traditional and representative of the gratitude we feel to the soldiers that gave their lives so that we can live free today.

  5. Michael KwanSunday, November 9th, 2008 — 2:59pm PST

    I don’t think the red poppy glorifies war. It simply commemorates the sacrifices of the soldiers who were killed and/or injured in the wars in the past. What’s done is done and we should respect those who sacrificed for their country. You can protest war the rest of the year.

  6. Ian BellTuesday, November 11th, 2008 — 3:21pm PST

    There are always fruitcakes who want to differentiate themselves from the mainstream. Armistice and later Remembrance Day are apolitical events created to celebrate the sacrifices of those who went to war, either fruitlessly or with a purpose. Thankfully, the red poppies and somber reflection on that contribution we all share is mainstream enough to raise the ire of the fruitcakes. Let’s protest war the other 364 days of the year. For today let’s celebrate those who fell and sacrificed.

  7. Shulamit Day BerlevtovTuesday, November 11th, 2008 — 5:31pm PST

    Video of white poppy wreath-laying at the National War Memorial in Otttawa Nov. 11, 2008:

    For more info about Ottawa white poppy events, contact Brenda Vellino at brenda_carr(at) or Ian Harvey at mmediamaniac(at)

    For general white poppy info, see the Peace Pledge Union website:

  8. What’s Up Wednesdays: Why We Remember || Beyond the Rhetoric ||Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 — 9:01am PST

    […] Remembrance Day. Many people wear red poppies to show respect, but there are movements toward both white poppies and no poppies. Are you being disrespectful by wearing a white poppy or are you simply making a […]

  9. Sam YounoTuesday, November 25th, 2008 — 4:25pm PST

    I’ll be wearing both a red and a white poppy next year (during Remembrance Ceremonies in which I perform). I’d planned to wear only the white, but that would offend some veterans, which is most definitely not my purpose or my point. I’ll wear the red to honour the sacrifices of the veterans, and the white to express my opposition to war and my disgust with those who glorify it.

    The two sentiments are in no way contradictory.

  10. Nancy EasterlingMonday, April 13th, 2009 — 10:35pm PDT

    In every area of life there seems to be someone that trys to go against what has been tradition or belief for many years. Sure everyone in life would chose peace over war but that is not the
    reality of life. You have your right to wear a white poppy but please keep it away from those Veterans and Veteran Memorials that have stood for the sacrifice soldiers have given for your freedom to do so. Our soldiers have always taken pride in the red poppy to represent their beliefs and sacrifice to our Nation.
    I guess there are people that sit around and search the internet to find issues that they can go against. Please find something that will contribute to this world. A white poppy will not change anything concerning war. War will always be. To think the world will have total peace is to live a fairytail life. Maybe the saying that fits best is “Get a real life.”

  11. Xuantong HongxianTuesday, November 10th, 2009 — 8:02pm PST

    I wear both, I wear the red one to remember the soldiers who died defending us and I wear the white one to remember all the civilian casualties who died in the war. I don’t believe in any of this “protest against glorifying war” crap. I wear the white poppy to remember the countless innocent civilians who died, who aren’t involved in the conflict in any way they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time And I think that that is just as important to remember. Lest we forget

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