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The first Anzac and Poppy Days

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/04/2017

More than 260,000 poppies were sold in New Zealand on the first Poppy Day on April 24, 1922.

The sale of 245,059 small poppies and 15,157 larger versions raised 13,166 pounds, equivalent to about $1.25 million today.

Of that money, about a quarter was sent to help war-ravaged areas of northern France and the rest went to unemployed returned soldiers in New Zealand, and their families.

After Colonel Alfred S. Moffatt took the idea of selling artificial poppies to the New Zealand Returned Soldiers' Association in September 1921, an order was placed for the poppies with Frenchwoman Madame E. Guerin, who conceived the original idea.

As the shipment arrived too late to hold Poppy Day in conjunction with Armistice Day on November 11, the NZRSA decided to postpone it until the day before Anzac Day, 1922.

After the success of the first Poppy Day, the appeal has been held each year since - usually on the Friday prior to Anzac Day - with money raised now going to returned service personnel and their dependants.

Anzac Day, meanwhile, was first gazetted as a half-day holiday in 1916, before becoming a full public holiday in 1921.

The first dawn ceremony was held in 1939 and the Anzac Day Act was passed in 1966, allowing activities after 1pm.

April 25 marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

Anzac Day was marked a year later and has gone through many changes since, but remains rich in tradition and remembrance, as much about nationhood - embracing the wider community, rather than just the military - as it is recalling wartime deeds.

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