Waking up in the still hours before dawn, listening to the haunting notes of the Last Post played by a lone soldier, standing shoulder to shoulder with soldiers, school kids and war vets, observing a minute’s silence. Whenever you think of ANZAC Day, images like these spring immediately to mind. And amongst the many rituals and customs that make up ANZAC Day services, there are a number of flowers and plants that play a particularly important role. From rosemary sprigs worn on the lapel, to laurel wreaths and red poppies laid on graves and memorials, the flowers people use to remember our fallen heroes are steeped in tradition and loaded with meaning.
April 25th is considered one of the most significant days on the Australian calendar, marking the anniversary of Australian soldiers landing on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915. But ANZAC Day is a national day not only of mourning and commemoration of that fateful landing, but also one of remembrance, gratitude, pride and hope. It is a time to remember those who sacrificed their lives to protect the freedom of generations to come; who died fighting for their right to call this great sunburnt land the ‘lucky’ country. And it would seem that 100 years on the spirit of ANZAC is alive and well, with record numbers of attendees ‘standing-to’ at dawn services across the country in 2015 and similar crowds expected in 2016.
Read on to find out what the most traditional ANZAC Day flowers are and how you can use them to pay your respects this ANZAC Day.
Found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula, rosemary is popular on Anzac Day. Since ancient times this aromatic herb has been believed to have properties to help improve the memory and as a result, it became an emblem of both loyalty and remembrance in literature and folklore. Traditionally, sprigs of rosemary are worn on the lapel on ANZAC Day and sometimes on Remembrance Day, and are usually handed out by Legacy and the RSL.
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2. Flanders Poppy
The Flanders Poppy is the flower variety most associated with the First World War battlefields and the trenches of Western Europe. It’s thought that the soil disturbance of soldiers tramping, marching, and fighting caused mass germination of poppy seeds. Subsequently, their blood-red flowers became symbols of the massive loss of life. This relationship was further strengthened after the war ended, when red paper poppies were sold as fundraisers for the wounded and damaged survivors.
In recent years the poppy, strongly associated with Remembrance Day (11 November), has also become popular on ANZAC Day. After the Dawn Service families often place red poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, or beside the names of relatives on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour, as they do after Remembrance Day services.
3. Floral Wreaths
Throughout history flowers have been laid on graves and memorials to commemorate the dead. Floral wreaths, particularly of woven laurel, were also used by the ancient Romans to crown victors and the brave as a mark of honour. Today, a popular flower used for commemorative wreaths are red poppies, sometimes without any other flower variety and other times mixed with rosemary or laurel. On ANZAC Day the suggested procedure for laying wreaths is to move up to the memorial with the wreath in the left or both hands, pause, lower and then lay the wreath, stand to attention, take one pace backwards and then bow the head and pause to remember.
“ANZAC is not merely about loss. It is about courage, and endurance, and duty, and love of country, and mateship, and good humour, and the survival of a sense of self-worth and decency in the face of dreadful odds.” Sir William Deane
This ANZAC Day, when the bugle sounds, the first rays of sunlight filter through the clouds, and you commemorate the brave men and women who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations, take a moment to reflect on the history with your deeper understanding of the rituals and customs that make up the ceremony.
Imagery with thanks from: awm.gov.au, army.gov.au, defence.gov.au, rslwahq.org.au, couriermail.com.au, theadvocate.com.au, advancebulletin.com, thredbo.com.au, melbourneahoy.com.au, pomsinadelaide.com, creativityunmasked.blogspot.com, lanternclub.com.au, upperyarramuseum.org.au, metaphorimages.com, caroandco.com.au, creativeframingsolutions.com.au, and flowersatthedoor.com.au
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