This week as Americans begin their celebrations of thanksgiving I once again started to think of how fortunate we are and wondered what Thanksgiving actually meant. In my mind, and not being American, it is a day of giving thanks and being truly grateful for all that we have.
A quick search on the internet reveals that the US holiday dates back to 1621 and commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers. It is held on the fourth Thursday in November where family and friends come together and is usually a four-day holiday period. The concept is similar to the harvest festivals that we celebrate here in the UK during September, giving thanks to the land and all that it has reaped.
However, another special event that takes place in November is Remembrance Day. Every year on 11 November at 11am we observe a two minutes silence which marks when the first world war officially ended and is in memory of those who have fought in all conflicts. The tradition of the two minutes silence started on the anniversary of Armistice Day in 1919.
During early November, a team of volunteers for the Royal British Legion, come together to sell poppies up and down the country for what is known as The Poppy Appeal. We make a small donation in the collection box and we wear our poppies with pride as we remember those who have fought and lost their lives in past conflicts.
The poppy has long been associated with Remembrance Day and has become a symbol of the sacrifices made in past wars. This was because the flower was the only plant to grown on the barren battlefields of Northern France and Flanders once the conflict was over.
For me, November this year has been quite a special month, and I am sure it has been for many people here in the UK who made a visit to The Tower of London to see the exhibition of poppies called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”.
This year at the Tower of London and to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, it was decided to install 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London. One poppy represents a life lost during the first world war. The planting of the poppies began in July and the last one was planted on 11 November. Not surprisingly, it has become London’s number one tourist attraction.
There isn’t a person that I know who hasn’t been to see the poppies and been touched by this amazing sight and all it represents. One poppy for every life lost and to see each poppy carefully planted really brings home the loss and devastation of not only the first world war but all subsequent wars. We all know someone who has lost close ones, relatives, grandparents and great grandparents in conflict and I think this has been a fitting tribute.
The poppies are now being dismantled and are being carefully packed ready to be sent out to all the people who bought them, raising millions of pounds for six service charities in the UK.
So this November, as I reflect on such a spectacular and touching tribute, I want to give special thanks to those who have given their lives and continue to do so in all conflicts for the freedom we enjoy today. The sight of all the poppies and lives lost will stay with me for a very long time and I am truly grateful to all those who fought for our freedom.
I would love to hear from you if you visited the Tower of London and your thoughts, or alternatively if you are living overseas how you feel about this amazing tribute.
Wishing all my lovely readers a happy and love filled thanksgiving week.