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Honoring Sacrifice: A Guide to Different Colored Poppies and Their Significance

In November many people will wear a poppy for Remembrance Day to show respect for those who died fighting in the First World War and the conflicts that followed it. In more recent times different colour poppies have become available but many people don’t know their meanings.

Red Poppy

A red Poppy in a field.

For over a hundred years the Poppy Appeal has been raising money for veterans through the Royal British Legion. The first appeal raised over £106,000 to help veterans with housing and jobs. Whilst it might not sound like a significant amount, 100 years ago this was a considerable sum of money. Nowadays around 40,000 volunteers distribute 40 million poppies.

For 2023 a new plastic-free poppy has been introduced. It's made completely out of paper allowing it to be easily recycled at home through ordinary paper recycling collections. Amongst the paper poppy, there are also wreaths to be laid on memorials across the country and wooden crosses that are stuck in the ground around these memorials. Metal pins are also sold. These are often dated with the year or have a sports team badge alongside them. You’ll also see the red poppy on the shirts of different sports teams during November. These shirts are then auctioned off with the money raised going straight to charity.

Purple Poppy

Purple poppy wreath on a Cenotaph.

The purple poppy is worn in remembrance of the animals that have been victims of war. The animals drafted in are often forgotten about yet were just as important to the war effort. People who feel the service of animals like horses, dogs and pigeons should be seen as equal to that of human service will choose to wear the purple poppy. Donations to the Animal Purple Poppy Fund go to charities including the World Horse Welfare and the Households Cavalry Foundation. The word poppy is used by the Animal Purple Poppy Fund with the agreement of the Royal British Legion.

Black Poppy

The black poppy is worn to commemorate the contributions of black, African, West Indian, Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Indigenous Communities to the war effort. This is not only for the servicemen and servicewomen but also civilians. The charity BlackPoppyRose was launched in 2010 with the aim of highlighting the “largely untold historical legacies” of black, African, West Indian, Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Indigenous Communities from the 16th century onwards. This year the charity also released a limited edition pin to commemorate 75 years since the Windrush.

White Poppy

White poppy wreath.

Some people believe the red poppy glorifies war and conflict and instead will choose to wear a white poppy. This poppy is handed out by a charity called Peace Pledge Union whose aim is to promote peace. They say the white poppy commemorates the people who died in conflict but focuses on achieving peace and challenging the way we look at war.

Other Poppies

Other coloured poppies are available but are often controversial. This is usually because they are sold by independent companies to make a profit rather than charities in an effort to raise money. You may remember a couple of years ago when a rainbow poppy sparked outrage. The poppy was designed to commemorate the service of the LGBTQ+ community and their efforts to war. This sparked large amounts of backlash and sadly took away from the main point of remembrance week, to honour the fallen. Ultimately the red Poppy is for every person who served in war regardless of sexual orientation.

Ultimately wearing a poppy is a personal choice but any poppy purchased should be from a charitable organisation rather than a company looking to make a profit


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