The Symbolism of Memorial Day

Converged communicators, particularly those who are taking or have recently completed DIG3286 (Assembling Digital Media), know that symbols are important. In many ways, images carry their own form of language, existing alongside the verbal messages of text. And we see this visual language at work, whether in television commercials, political campaigns, donation drives, and countless other applications. On Memorial Day, when Americans remember and honor those who gave their lives in military service, it’s worth taking some time to pause and consider the significance of the day. Memorial Day, after all, is more than just a three-day weekend.

Image credit: hobvias sudoneighm/Wikimedia commons

Image credit: hobvias sudoneighm/Wikimedia commons

Although many people are unaware of the symbolism of Memorial Day, the observance actually has a symbol of its own: The poppy. The poppy has been recognized as the holiday’s symbol by the American Legion since 1921, when it was regarded as a symbol of the sacrifice of soldiers in World War I. This significance was immortalized by the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a doctor and soldier who wrote the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” in memory of those who died in the war. The poem depicts the resting place of these soldiers, among the poppy fields of Belgium (the site of many of the war’s bloodiest battles). He later died of severe pneumonia while serving in a hospital in 1918, near the war’s end. The poppy’s symbolism in connection to Memorial Day is very strong in some other countries, especially Great Britain and Canada.

Best wishes for all converged communicators for the Memorial Day weekend.


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