Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Poppies - Don't Forget the Reason for the Day and Show That You Remember and Honor

Happy Memorial Day Everyone!
I hope that you everyone is enjoying their long week-end and, for those of you who are so inclined, enjoying your various meats that have been cooked upon a grill with friends and family.  Grilling, for most of us, is a Memorial Day tradition.  There is just something about this holiday and the start of summer that makes it almost a moral imperative to go and char some meat on an open flame.

And though I myself will be doing my part to eat far to much red meat than is healthy, I wanted to take the time in this blog to remind everyone why we have this Monday off.

Memorial Day began after the Civil War to remember and honor those soldiers who died while serving in their countries armed forces.  Although people had been honoring fallen soldiers before then, this is when the holiday gained national recognition in 1868, so I'm going with that.  It started as a day when family and friends would go and put flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers.  Not a very happy holiday, I must say.

The tradition that I remember best from when I was a little girl was wearing a "Buddy Poppy" on Memorial Day.  These poppies were sold by veterans outside of stores and my father always bought one whenever we came across a veteran who was selling them.  Sometimes, I would have several paper poppies that I would wear in my hair and on my clothes.  I didn't know then, as a little girl, what they really symbolized, even though my dad and grandfather did their best to try to explain the meaning behind them to me.  I just new that I looked pretty and that the older gentleman that sold them always made me feel like a beautiful "little lady".

As an adult, I recently remembered the poppies and  I went to track down what those poppies meant and find out why my dad would purchase them whenever we would run across a gentleman selling one.
Here's what I found out:

It was after World War I, that people started the tradition of wearing tissue paper poppies to honor the soldiers that had fallen.  The red common poppy grows wild throughout Europe and is "seeded" by the tumbling of dirt.   Trenches created by the fighting soldiers during World War I were the perfect place for poppies to bloom and was a vivid symbol in the poem "In Flanders Fields".

In Flanders Fields

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That marks our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands with throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

During the early 1920's, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) adopted the idea of wearing the poppy, which resulted in the VFW "Buddy Poppy".  The paper poppies were fashioned by disabled veterans, who were paid for their work as a practical means of financial assistance.  This practice is still going on today. For more information, click the link below.

I remember. as a child, that these veterans used to be as much of an institution on Memorial Day as fireworks are on Fourth of July.  But I haven't seen a veteran selling one of these "Buddy Poppies" in at least a decade.  Maybe, I am no longer visiting the stores that they are at.  Or, maybe, I am just not living in an area that has many veterans, I don't know.  I only know that, this year, when I was consciously looking for a veteran so I could buy my poppy, I could not find one.

I still wanted to carry on the tradition of showing that I remembered why were celebrating Memorials Day and I wanted to wear a poppy.  I could have gone to Michael's or Hobby Lobby and purchased a flower, but that didn't have the same feel for me as the tissue paper poppies.  So I decided that I would make my own tissue paper poppy and wear it in my hair.

Let me stress this before I show you the tutorial on how to make your own tissue paper poppy --- If you can buy a poppy from a veteran DO SO!!!  This money goes to a good cause and is the way to wear a poppy.  But if, like me, you are having trouble find a veteran selling poppies, then this an alternative that I feel still honors the intent behind the symbol.

Excuse the messiness of my hair in this picture.  I was only focusing on the flower when I had my hubby take the picture.

How to Make a Tissue Paper Poppy

1 sheet red tissue paper
1 sheet black tissue paper
1 green pipe cleaner or a 4 inch strip of floral wire
wire cutters
glue (Can be a hot glue gun or Elmer's Glue)
Green scrapbook paper or leftover scrap leaves from a previous floral project

1.  Start with one sheet of red tissue paper.  As you can see from the picture below, my tissue paper was used tissue paper that I had saved from a Christmas present that I had received.  I always save my tissue paper to use for other presents or for craft projects.  You can iron your used tissue paper to make it flatter, but since I knew I was going to wrinkle up my flowers anyway, I decided that I would just use it as is.

2.  Fold the tissue paper in half.  This should give a rectangle.

3.  Fold the paper in half again forming a square.

4.  Cut along the folded edge with a pair of scissors.  This will give you two squares.

5. Fold one of the squares in half forming a rectangle.

6.  Cut along the folded edge of the rectangle.  This will give you a long rectangle.

7.  Fold the rectangle in half and then fold it in half again.

8.  Cut along the folded edges.

9.  Keep repeating these steps until you have eight tissue paper squares that are about 10.5 centimeters in size.  Don't worry if your edges aren't perfect or if you have squares that aren't exactly square, this will get fixed later on in the project.

10. Gather your black tissues paper and create a rectangle.  I didn't measure my rectangle, but it was about 1 quarter of the total tissue paper rectangle.  Fold the rectangle in half.

11.  Fold the paper in half again.

12.  Fold the paper in half again.  You should now have a fairly small rectangle/square.

13.  Place a spice bottle cap on the black paper and trace around it with a pencil to create a circle.

14.  Cut the circle out of the tissue paper.  You should now have eight small black tissue paper circles.

15.  Grab one of your eight red squares and fold it in half.

16.  Fold the tissue paper in half again.  You should now have a small square.

17.  Position your folded tissue paper square so that all of the folded edges are pointing toward you and the unfolded edges are away from you. Fold the square in half going from corner to corner forming a triangle.

18.  Along the unfolded edges of the triangle use your scissors to cut a curve so that you make a "petal" shape.

19.  This is what it looks like if you have cut it correctly.

This is what it looks like if you have not cut it correctly.  This is what you don't want to happen.

20.  Repeat steps 15 thru 19 until you have eight of the red poppy petal squares created.
21.  Take all eight of your red tissue paper petal squares and place them in a fairly even pile.  Don't worry about trying to line them so that they all face exactly the same.  Then place your eight black circles in the center of your petal squares.

22.  Using a green pipe cleaner or a twisted length of floral wire, poke through the center of all of the blossoms.  I find this easier to do if I do them one by one and just keep stacking rather than trying to do all of them at the same time.  Leave about one inch of the pipe cleaner or wire poking out from the top.

23.  Bend the pipe cleaner or the wire until it forms a hook and push the hook back into the center of the flower until it goes through all of the layers of the tissue paper.

24.  Twist the ends of the hook to the "stem" of the flower tightly.  Then put a drop of glue at the base of the flower to help it stick.  To be honest, pipe cleaners work better for this than floral wire, but floral wire was what I had so it was what I used.
25.  If you have leftover leaves from a project, slide those down the "stem" facing up toward the flower.  Or, you can make paper leaves.  You also don't have to do any leaves at all.  You do what makes you happy.  you should already having something that looks a lot like a poppy.

Sorry the picture is a little blurry.  I didn't notice while I was taking it.

26.  Crumple and play with flower to make it look more "poppy-like".

27.  And voila!!!  You have a tissue paper poppy!

It is up to you how you want to wear it.  You can leave it stem alone and pin it to your clothes with a straight pin or you can just poke the step into an updo.
I wanted to wear mine in my hair, so I glued mine to an old pin curl clip that I had that was starting to get rusty.

So I have my poppy and I am honoring our fallen heroes?  Do you have any Memorial Day memories traditions that you haven't seen in a while?  Or do you have any Memorial Day dishes that you always make for the start of summer?
If you do, please let me know.  I would love to hear about them!

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