Leading article: Earlier each year

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The Independent Online

The wearing of poppies, like the preparations for Christmas, seems to start a few days earlier every year. The artificial red flower was already adorning many a BBC presenter's lapel on Saturday, more than three weeks before Remembrance Sunday on 14 November. By then, almost no public figure will want to be seen without one.

This is welcome for the Royal British Legion, which raises money for various good causes from the sales of poppies. But there is a depressing aspect to the way that wearing a red poppy has become a semi-compulsory gesture for figures in the public eye, along with the disapproving attitude taken towards those that decline to conform.

The poppy was originally worn to remember the men that died in the First World War – those who had perished in the mud of Flanders especially. As a commemoration of their sacrifices, it sent a somewhat ambiguous message about the cost of war in general. It was certainly not worn for several weeks in a long run-up to Armistice or Remembrance Day.

By stretching out the time in which the poppy is worn, we devalue its significance. As with Christmas, poppy day is in danger of losing its meaning.