It’s that time of year again. Boxes of red poppies are springing up around the country and the symbol of remembrance for our veterans is becoming more and more ubiquitous as Remembrance Day approaches. But just when should one start to wear a poppy, and where? Can you use your old one? For a proper rundown of proper poppy etiquette, spoke with Danny Martin, secretary to the Poppy and Remembrance Committee at the federal Royal Canadian Legion office in Ottawa.

 When is it appropriate to start wearing a poppy?

“The campaign starts this year on Oct. 27 – it starts two weekends prior to Remembrance Day.  So Oct. 27 through to November 11 in regards to Remembrance Day,” Martin says.

However he points out that there are other occasions throughout the year where it might be appropriate to wear a poppy, such as at the funeral of a veteran or a special occasion connected to veterans, such as the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge that occurred on April 9.

“But that’s a one-time occasion, so you put the poppy on (for the event) and when you’re done, you take it off. At this particular time period from Oct. 27 to Nov. 11, it’s appropriate to wear it all the time.”

Where should one wear the poppy?

The proper place to wear a poppy is the left-hand-side of one’s shirt, over the heart or on the lapel of one’s jacket, on the left-hand-side side.

Everyone is encouraged to wear a poppy, but is there anyone who MUST wear one?

“The remembrance period is important to most Canadians, they go out of their way to remember,” Martin says. “At this particular time of year, it’s important for them to see our leaders wearing the red poppy in its pure form, and not modified in any way.”

What if you want to make your own poppy or decorate one?

This is a big no, according to Martin.

“The poppy that’s distributed is a trademarked copyright of the Royal Canadian Legion in Canada,” he says. “The ones that are manufactured for remembrance are the ones that are to be worn exactly the way you pick them up.” 

Using a Canadian flag pin to affix a poppy to one’s coat or manipulating/modifying the poppy in any other way is improper, Martin says.

“People who are concerned about the pin on it and pricking themselves can pick up rubber stoppers, which are also available to put at the bottom.”

The stoppers should be available wherever poppies are distributed. Martin adds that poppy stickers are also available when it’s impossible or awkward to use the regular pin poppies.

He says that even if your intentions are good, you should not make your own poppies, as the symbol is a trademarked way for the legion to support veterans and their families.

How much should a poppy cost?

They’re not for sale; They’re distributed and donations of any amount are encouraged.

Is it OK to use a poppy that you have stored in a drawer from a previous year?

“The most important aspect of the Poppy Campaign is remembrance. So if you’ve got a poppy, wear a poppy – you’re honouring the sacrifices that veterans have made for this country. That’s important,” Martin says.

However he adds that if you use an old poppy, you should still consider making a donation as the funds go to support veterans and their dependents in many ways through the legion.

You might be surprised at how many people dress their pets for different occasions. Is it OK to put a poppy on a pet?

“Putting a poppy on an animal isn’t exactly correct,” Martin says. “But remembering the sacrifices those animals have made in wartime – there’s nothing wrong with that at all.”

He points out that while poppies are reserved for remembering humans, it is true that horses, dogs and even pigeons have been utilized in wartime and have exhibited what we would characterize as great valour or loyalty.

“Would it be proper to put a poppy on a dog? No. Would it be proper to recognize the sacrifices that animals have contributed? Yeah –sure it is.”

What do you do with your poppy after Remembrance Day? Can you throw it away?

 “A lot of people when they’re done and over with at the national ceremony, will go up to the tomb of the unknown soldier and (place their poppies there) so that the sarcophagus is totally covered in them. That’s an appropriate thing.”

He says that while many people collect poppies on car visors and in drawers, it is acceptable to throw them away after Remembrance Day, as long as it’s done in a proper and respectful way.

“You don’t need to get an alter and burn them in a special pot or anything like that,” he jokes. “The wearing of them and remembering is the important thing. How you dispose of them is up to you; Just don’t throw them on the sidewalk.”

Does anybody use live poppies for Remembrance Day?

“Have you ever seen a live poppy? They don’t last very long and they’re very fragile,” Martin says. “You’d never get a live poppy on a wreath so that it would actually stay there. It would just fall apart.”

 Where are poppy boxes allowed?

“We have agreements with certain corporations to allow solicitation on their property, whether it’s placing the trays or allowing (volunteers) in there at certain times. Those instructions are sent out across the country to all the branches,” Martin says.

However with thousands of volunteers, he says the instructions don’t always filter down properly, leading to some confusion at the local level as to why some stores and public spaces have boxes and others don’t.

 He says some corporations have been unfairly treated by local volunteers because of the confusion.

“Where there’s an agreement, whether corporations allow us to stand in front and solicit their customers coming in or just to place trays, we’re happy with that,” he says.