Memorial Day, originally called "Decoration Day," was first celebrated on May 30th, 1868, to honor those (Union soldiers) who died in the American Civil War (the South had their own memorials at that time). After World War I, the day became one to honor all Americans who died fighting any war. But why the poppies?

Poppy seeds lie dormant in the soil, and heavily turning or digging up the soil causes them to sprout. Poppies have long been noted for suddenly "popping up" on battlefields and in graveyards.

Major John McCrae, a Canadian, wrote the poem "In Flanders Fields" the day after the burial of a young friend and student, after seeing the poppies in the cemetery where his student had been buried.

Moina Michael, an American, was very moved by the poem, and wrote a short poem of her own in response, from which these lines are excerpted:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led.
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.