Before the poppy and Remembrance Day came the violet, and the aptly named Violet Day. Today is the centenary of the first Violet Day, held on July 2nd 1915.
I have to thank Catherine from History SA for educating me on this one. Knowledge that I’ve since passed on to others (including my inquisitive mother).
On the first Violet Day in 1915 fresh violets were sold to raise money to support returned soldiers. In addition to violets there were ribbons printed with ‘In Memory’ along with the Christian cross, and in subsequent years badges and volumes of poetry were available. The first Violet Day would have been quite a sight, with around 100 women dressed in white carrying trays of violets to sell through the city of Adelaide.
While Violet Day events were held in other states (and once in New Zealand) over the years, many consider Violet Day to be a uniquely South Australian event, even though a lot of South Australians might not even know about it.
While the poppy did eventually become Australia’s recognised flower for war memorials, the poppy was, in South Australia at least, the original ‘symbol of perpetual remembrance’.
Being the centenary, Adelaide is going all out this year.
Catherine from History SA has coordinated the creation of the wreaths you’ll be able to see on the South African War Memorial today, pieced together from violets crocheted by Catherine and an army of volunteers.
The big show starts tonight, when arts projection company Illuminart will be animating the Torrens Parade Grounds with Architectural Storytelling Projections. The projected experience will tell the story of how the Cheer Up Society came to exist, and will show First World War experiences in South Australia through historical images and documents.
For more information about the show, which is on at 6pm & 8pm for the next three nights, visit violetverses.com.au.