Poppy protocol: the dos and don’ts of wearing your poppy

A poppy pin worn on a lapel [Credit: Flickr/hobvias sudoneighm]

For many Canadians, Remembrance Day has many different layers of significance and meaning. Beyond taking a respectful two minutes of silence, there is no “right” way to reflect upon battles past, or to hope for a peaceful future. Poppies, on the other hand, come with some pretty straightforward guidelines. You may not know it, but there are certain rules to wearing a poppy. Some of them are stricter than others (some have said the only correct way to wear a poppy is with pride and respect), but in general, Remembrance Day is the one day where it’s a good idea to stick to protocol.

Here, then, are some tips to help prevent breaches of poppy etiquette.

Wear it on the left side

Poppies are traditionally worn on the left side so that they’ll be closer to our hearts. Directly over the heart is a good spot, as is the left lapel.

Don’t swap out the pin 

It might be tempting to “hack” your poppy and use a closable safety pin rather than the straight pin it comes with. But according to the Royal Canadian Legion, altering the poppy is a sign of disrespect. Says the Legion’s website: “The poppy is the sacred symbol of remembrance and should not be defaced in any way.”

But using a rubber stopper is ok

If you do fear poking yourself on the open-ended pin, there are other options. Generally rubber stoppers to protect the sharp ends of the pins are available wherever poppies are distributed. And in cases where a poppy pin simply can’t be used, there are also stickers available.

Making your own isn’t quite the same

You may be tempted to DIY and make your own poppy for the season. But while artistic tributes to poppies are a part of the holiday, replacing the standard-issue poppy with a self-made one might infringe on the Canadian Legion’s copyright. Plus, the Legion poppies collect donations for veterans and their families who are in need. So get your creative impulses out in a poem or painting, and drop some coins in the can for a Legion-approved poppy.

You can wear a few

Queen Elizabeth II was known for wearing multiple poppies. Some people wear several poppies in order to honour different countries or different individuals.

Dispose of it respectfully

Throwing a poppy out after Remembrance Day is fine, according to Danny Martin, secretary to the Poppy and Remembrance Committee at the federal Royal Canadian Legion. “You don’t need to get an altar and burn them in a special pot or anything like that,” he told CP24. It’s also common to leave poppies on war memorials, such as the tomb of the unknown soldier. Just make sure not to litter — it’s disrespectful to the dead and the living.

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