When I was growing up in Winnipeg we called Remembrance Day: Poppy Day. And every year when it came around, my Dad would return from work with a poppy on his lapel. Often, he’d bring some home for us and I felt it was both a thrill and an honour to wear one. It connected me with my Dad and by extension with history. It made me feel proud.
Back then my dad, a veteran who saw action as part of Montreal’s Blackwatch regiment in WWII, would have bought the poppy from someone more senior than he was (by that I mean someone who’d fought in WWI).
Later, the ‘torch’ was passed to the WWII vets, and now they’re mostly gone too. Today, you never know who’s going to sell you a poppy (and sometimes it’s just the honour system and a contribution you make at Tim Horton’s). Time marches on.
Every year, I continue to wear a poppy over my heart and feel nostalgic. I love the symbol, the visual reminder of Flanders Fields, where ‘poppies blow between the crosses row on row. That mark our place…’
In Manitoba, Remembrance Day is a holiday, a reminder to pay tribute to the past as we look to the future. But here in Ontario, a few government workers get the day off but even our public schools are open. For most people it’s business as usual.
And that’s too bad.
Yet the Premier of our province announced with much fanfare during his campaign, the creation of a new Ontario holiday, a meaningless if blandly inoffensive ‘Family Day’.
Perhaps he should have looked to Remembrance Day and made it an official time to remember those who served our country, all their sacrifices and the meaningful values and beliefs they were fighting for. It would be a holiday where we reflected on the past and considered how fortunate we are to live in a country of tolerance and peace.
‘To you from failing hands we throw the torch…’