Facts About the Flags of the World

While every country has its own flag, these symbols of patriotism sure do bring up a lot of inquiries. From why certain symbols are chosen to what the colors of the flags mean, we’ll examine some interesting facts about the flags of the world.

Flags are national symbols. Every country decided on a specific flag as their national symbol. Before flags, certain groups of people used decorated spears and decorated staff which showed their cultural symbols. Later people used ribbons, leather, or silk decorations on the spears to differentiate their group from another group. Flags flown in the 18th century told others that this particular land belongs to them and that they rule over the people and land.

All cultures use certain symbols with are meaningful to them. Some symbols are even universal, as they have the same meaning all over the world. Here are the symbols that are most used in flags:

Japan 5' x 8' Nylon Flag

Sun: The circle of the sun symbolizes unity and energy. Japan is referred to be the “land of the rising sun” and uses the sun (simplified as a circle) in its national flag (pictured). Another country that uses this powerful symbol is Argentina.

Tunisia 5' x 8' Nylon Flag
Moon: The moon is usually displayed in crescent shape to distinguish it from the symbol of the sun. In combination with a star, the moon represents divinity. Tunisia’s flag (pictured) has three powerful symbols in its national flag; the red crescent moon and one-star rest in a white circle representing the sun. Turkey and Singapore also use the moon as a symbol on their flag.

American Flag 5ft X 8ft Nylon By Valley Forge
Stars: Constellations of stars often represent energy, especially when depicting the night sky or star constellation. The American flag (pictured) is affectionately known as “Stars and Stripes”. Other countries using the stars as a symbol are Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.

England 5' x 8' Nylon FlagCross: In ancient times, the cross only symbolized the different points of the compass. However, in the 4th century, the cross was also taken as the symbol of faith. Countries that use the cross symbol include England’s St. George Cross (pictured), Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland.

Bahamas 5' x 8' Nylon FlagTriangle: The three points of a triangle represent the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in Christianity. The triangle often also symbolizes strength and power. Countries that use a triangle as a symbol are: Bahamas (pictured), Eritrea, Sudan, American Samoa, and others.

Switzerland 5' x 8' Nylon Flag
Square: The four even lengths of the square symbolize balance and equal opposites. The Swiss flag is the only square flag in the world.

White is the color most used in flags (at 17.7%), while red is second and in third place is yellow. Let’s go over what each color means.

White stands for peace and innocence. This is also the color of purity. It symbolizes light and perfection. In many countries, white is also associated with death (wave the white flag for surrender).

Red stands for love and emotion. It is the color of life, blood, and passion. It is also associated with power and danger. In China, the color red is associated with good luck.

Yellow stands for happiness and energy. It often symbolizes the sunshine. In China, yellow is considered to be the imperial color.

Blue stands for tranquility and calmness. It often symbolizes the water and the sky. The color is often associated with trust and loyalty, as well as with wisdom and harmony.

Green stands for freshness and fertility and is a symbol of nature and new growth. It also is associated with stability and safety.

Orange stands for joy, creativity, enthusiasm and even revolutionary ideas. As a combination of red and yellow, it is usually associated with strength, passion and activity.

Black stands for darkness and mystery. It is also associated with power and strength.

Dominica 5' x 8' Nylon FlagPurple stands for passion and wealth. The combination of red and blue is associated with luxury and elegance, but also with power and independence. Only a few countries use purple or violet in their flags: Nicaragua, the Second Republic of Spain, and Dominica (pictured).

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Boxing Day

Boxing Day is observed annually on December 26th in the United Kingdom and other European countries, as well as in former British colonies including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. It became an official holiday during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), though some historians trace its origins back much further to medieval times. Today, it is mostly an extension of the Christmas holiday, that includes sporting events (read on to see if boxing is one of those sporting events) and shopping (sort of a sporting event).

While no one really knows where the name “Boxing Day” originated, many historians believe the name is derived from the church practice of opening alms boxes the day after Christmas and distributing money to the poor. Historically, British employers followed the church’s lead by giving workers and servants gifts or cash on December 26.

Others believe the “box” refers to the boxes of gifts that employers gave to their servants on the day after Christmas. In wealthy households, servants were often required to work on Christmas Day, but was given December 26th off in order to celebrate the holiday on their own.

Today, Boxing Day is the time for getting together with those you weren’t able to on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, to visit, eat leftovers, drink, and watch sports.
Football (the non-American version) and horse racing are popular sporting events that take place on Boxing Day. Fox hunting was also a sporting event for the patricians. However in 2004, it became illegal to hunt foxes with a pack of dogs. Hunters will still gather, dressed brilliantly in red hunting coats, but now they follow artificially laid trails. In other countries, Boxing Day is celebrated with…wait for it…prize-fighting events. These include former British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.

Boxing Day has become known as a big day for shopping. Stores offer steep discounts, and people spend hours waiting in line for these huge deals. It’s basically Black Friday Part II (And as a side note; Britain and Canada both recognize Black Friday on the same day as the US, despite celebrating Thanksgiving in either a different month or not at all).

Ireland refers to December 26th as “St. Stephen’s Day”, named after the Saint recognized as the first martyr in Christian theology. Ireland also refers to this day as Wren Day, a nod to an old tradition in which poor children would stone a wren (to represent what happened to St. Stephen) and then go around town knocking on doors asking for money. While this tradition continues, a fake wren is now used, and the money collected is for charity.

Hope this sheds a little light when you see “Boxing Day” on the December 26th block on your calendar.

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Celebrating Canada Day

Canada was officially born on July 1, 1867 when the Constitution Act joined three provinces into one country: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province, which then split into Ontario and Quebec. However, Canada was not completely independent of England until 1982. Canada celebrated Dominion Day, officially established in 1879, but it wasn’t observed by many Canadians because they considered themselves to be British citizens. Canadian patriotism and Dominion Day celebrations started to take off on the 100th anniversary of Canada’s birthday. And although quite a few Canadians already called the holiday Canada Day, the new name wasn’t formally adopted until October of 1982.

Canada Flag 3ft x 5ft Printed Polyester

Here are some fun facts about Canada:

The National Flag of Canada came into being in 1965 to replace the Union Jack. It is an 11 pointed red maple leaf on a white square.

Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world, right after Russia.

Canada was named through a misunderstanding. When Jaques Cartier, a French explorer, came to the new world, he met with local Natives who invited them to their ‘kanata’ (the word for ‘village’). The party mistakenly thought the name of the country was “Kanata” or Canada.

Alternative names proposed for Canada in 1867 were Borealia, Cabotia, Transatlantica, Victorialand, and Superior.

Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world’s lakes combined.

Canada is home to the longest street in the world. Yonge Street in Ontario starts at Lake Ontario, and runs north through Ontario to the Minnesota border, a distance of almost 2,000 kilometers (1242.74 miles).

There are more doughnut shops in Canada per capita than any other country.

Canadians consume more Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinners than any other nation in the world.

The famous Canadian interjection “eh” is actually listed in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary as a valid word.

There’s an area in the Hudson Bay region that has less gravity than the rest of the planet.

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The Story Behind Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Mexico 4ft x 6ft Nylon Flag with Pole Hem Only - Banner

Cinco de Mayo, which means May 5 in Spanish, is probably one of the most misunderstood holidays that Americans celebrate. In fact, Cinco de Mayo isn’t even a holiday, Mexican or American. May 5th isn’t even Mexico’s Independence Day. That is celebrated on September 16.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. Mexico had trouble paying back war debts to European countries, and France had come to Mexico to collect that debt.  The French army, under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez, led 6,000 French troops out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his headquarters in the north, Mexican President Benito Juarez rounded up a motley force of 2,000 loyal men and sent them to Puebla.

The Battle of Puebla lasted from daybreak to early evening when the French finally retreated after losing nearly 500 soldiers.  Fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the clash. Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, the success at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and strengthened the resistance movement. In 1867 – thanks in part to military support and political pressure from the United States, which was finally in a position to aid its besieged neighbor after the end of the American Civil War – France finally withdrew.

Within Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, although other parts of the country also take part in the celebration.  Traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other festive events.  It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open.

Today, Cinco de Mayo is more of an American celebration than a Mexican holiday.  A celebration that includes parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing, Mexican food and probably a few margaritas.

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Vexillology – For the Love of Flags

Vexillology is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags.  While it is a tough word to pronounce, vexillology is certainly an interesting field of study.  Someone who studies flags is a vexillologist and someone who designs flags is a vexillographer.

Derived from the Latin word vexillum , the Romans used this term to refer to a kind of standard with a fabric hung from a horizontal crossbar on a pole.  It is the nearest equivalent in the classical languages to what we call a flag today.

The term vexillology was born in 1957 by United States scholar, Whitney Smith Jr. (February 26, 1940 – November 17, 2016) and first appeared in print in 1959. Smith went on the co-found “The Flag Bulletin,” the world’s first ever journal dedicated to flags in 1961. One year later he established the official Flag Research Center in Winchester, Massachusetts.

Smith went on to organize the First International Congress of Vexillology with Klaes Sierksma in Muiderberg, Netherlands in 1965. Both Smith and Sierksma joined Louis Mühlemann in founding the International League of Vexillologists and were members of its Governing Board from September 1965, and operated until September 1967. The league was replaced by the International Federation of Vexillological Associations (known by its French acronym FIAV) with Smith as vice-president of the Provisional Council as of September 3, 1967. In 1969, Smith moved from being FIAV Provisional Council vice-president to being the first Secretary-General of FIAV.  Smith was also responsible for founding the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) and the Flag Heritage Foundation.

Smith wrote 27 books on the subject of flags including Flags Through the Ages and Across the World, The Flag Book of the United States, and Flag Lore of all Nations. Smith was the designer of the national flag of Guyana (pictured below) and served as a vexillographer to a number of governments and organizations.  Smith was also part of the committee that developed the flag of Bonaire.

Guyana Flag

Smith described the process of creating a design that is appropriate to the subject of a flag with Britannica, stating “The best symbols should have a clear meaning. The essential idea is to create something pleasing but also significant” – Flags of the World: 5 Questions for Vexillologist Whitney Smith Encyclopedia Britannica Blog June 2011

Since World War II, interest in flags has expanded beyond their creation and use. Political scientists, historians, sociologists, and others recognize them as artifacts, expressions of the cultures of certain times and places. Learning about flags is fun (just ask Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory on CBS) and connects to such a wide range of other things to learn:  art and design, history, politics, cultural geography, religion, law.

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Celebrating Australia Day

Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 and is a day to reflect what it means to be Australian. An important date in Australia’s history, the reason for celebration has changed over time. The celebration was first started for emancipated convicts and evolved into what is now a celebration of Australia that reflects the nation’s diverse people. Early almanacs began referring to January 26 as “First Landing Day” or “Foundation Day”. It was acknowledged as an official public holiday in 1804 by Governor Macquarie.

There are three elements to the Australian flag, of which are all displayed on a blue background and share equal importance. The first element is the Union Jack. The Union Jack acknowledges the history of British Settlement. Below the Union Jack is the flag’s second element; the Commonwealth star. It has seven points of which six points represent the unity of six states, and the seventh point indicates the territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. The third element, the Southern Cross, is shown on the fly of the flag in white. This element represents the constellation of 5 stars which can only be seen from Australia’s southern hemisphere.

Australia Flag

Here are some fun facts about Australia:

There are 3 times as many sheep than people living in Australia.

In 2005, the government issued a ban on saying the word ‘mate’ at Parliament House. The ban lasted 24 hours before it was overturned.

Over 200 different languages and dialects are spoken in Australia.

Despite being a massive continent, 90% of Australia’s population live on the coast due to the majority of the interior being a vast desert.

Australia has a larger population of camels than Egypt.

Australia, as a name, comes from the Latin terra australis incognita meaning “unknown southern land”.

Voting in elections, if you are over 18, is mandatory. Otherwise, an initial fine of $72 is issued. Despite this, only around 81% of eligible voters cast their vote.

Australia was the second country in the world to give women the right to vote in 1902 (New Zealand being the first).

The first Police Force in Australia was made up of the most well-behaved convicts.

Australia is the only continent without an active volcano.

2016 Invictus Games

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(c) Getty Images

It’s time for the Invictus Games! Brits are gearing up to cheer for their fellow countrymen in a Paralympic-like competition against a select few countries. If you have never heard of them, don’t worry because it’s still something relatively new. It was just started in 2014 but Prince Harry originally came up with the idea in 2013 when he was out on a trip to the US to attend the Warrior Games. He saw how sport was therapeutic for many servicemen, and helped them open up to people again after seeing the horrors of war.

Prince Harry came up with the idea of the Invictus Games. The games would be for active duty and veteran Service men and women who were injured, ill, or wounded. Now, why was the word “invictus” chosen for the name of the games? It is because it means “unconquered”, and it represents the spirit of the service men and women. They are moving on through sport despite injury and illness. These games show how courageous and inspiring these men and women are.

The first Invictus Games were held in London, England, UK. The second edition (2016) of the Invictus Games will be held in Orlando, Florida in the United States and then in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2017, and then other international cities after 2017. Much like the Olympics, the games are held in different cities across different countries. There is an Opening and Closing Ceremony and the games take place in the course of just a few days.

In the past two years since the games were created, the Invictus Games have been given more attention, especially in the media and online. Prince Harry made a video with President Barack Obama and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, poking fun at each other just before the games were to begin. Prince Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, was also featured in the video.

It is incredible to see the success of these games. Prince Harry is receiving lots of praise for his wonderful idea, especially since his mother, Princess Diana, had taught him to be kind and help others. He has the support of several current and former world leaders along with many in the military. Although only a handful of service people will compete, the support and encouragement  is far greater.

-CD

Flag of South Sudan

South Sudan is the newest country in the world, having declared its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. Many countries adopt a flag after becoming an independent nation, but South Sudan actually adopted its official flag exactly six years before its independence day. The flag of South Sudan was adopted on July 9, 2005, following the end of the Second Sudanese Civil War.

The flag of South Sudan is rectangular with three large horizontal stripes: the top stripe is black, the middle stripe is red, and the bottom stripe is green. Two thinner white stripes appear between the larger colored fields. A blue triangle with a gold star in the center appears on the left side of the flag.

The colored stripes on the flag refer to the Pan-African colors. These colors appear in the flags of many African nations and are also the official colors of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA).

In the flag of South Sudan, the black stripe represents the people of South Sudan; the red stripe represents the blood of all the South Sudanese that fought for their country’s freedom; and the green stripe represents the geographical land and resources of South Sudan. The smaller white stripes on the flag represent the country’s desire for peace.

The blue triangle on the left side of the flag stands for the Nile River, which flows through South Sudan. The gold star in the center of the triangle stands for unity among the people of South Sudan. It also alludes to the Star of Bethlehem, and the relatively large number of Christians residing in South Sudan.

The flag of South Sudan is very similar to the flag of Kenya, which borders South Sudan. Prior to the current flag’s adoption in 2005, the flag of South Sudan was the official banner of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which fought the Sudanese government from 1983 until 2005.

Flag of the Canary Islands

The flag of the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands was officially adopted on August 16, 1982. The flag is rectangular with three vertical stripes. One left side is a white stripes, a blue stripes is in the center, and a yellow stripes is on the right side. In the center of the flag is the coat of arms of the Canary Islands.

The flag was designed in the 1960s during the Canary Islands Independence Movement, or the Movement for the Independence and Self-determination of the Canaries Archipelago. The movement largely used violence to attempt to achieve independence for the Canary Islands from the Spanish government by force.

Carmen Sarmiento and her two sons, Arturo and Jesus, all activists in the Canary Islands Independence Movement, designed the flag of the Canary Islands on September 7, 1961. The family made approximately 3000 flags on paper ribbons and distributed them the following day at the “fiesta of the Virgin Mary of Pino.”

The flag of the Canary Islands combines the colors of two of the archipelago’s provinces. The province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (making up the western part of the Canary Islands) flew a blue and white flag; and the province of Las Palmas (making up the eastern part of the Canary Islands flew blue and yellow flag. According to some traditions, the white color represents the water that comes off of the mountains, the yellow represents the yellow canary songbird, and the blue represents the celestial blue sky.

The coat of arms of the Canary Islands consists of a blue shield with seven islands inside. Two dogs, in Latin called Insularia Canaria, support the flag, and are thought to depict a large breed of fierce dogs from which the Canary Islands archipelago gets its name. A red crown sits on top of the shield and the word “Oceano” waves on a ribbon over the top.

Flag of Guatemala

The original flag of Guatemala was adopted on August 17, 1871, and the current version was adopted in 1968. The flag is rectangular and divided into three vertical fields. The left and right fields are sky blue and the center field is white with the Guatemalan coat of arms in the center.

The blue and white colors on the flag of Guatemala represent the original colors used by the Federal Republic of Central America: a republican democracy that spanned what is now Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Mexican state of Chiapas. The blue stripes on the side of the flag also represent the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the two large bodies of water that border Guatemala. The white symbolizes peace and purity.

In 1968, the Guatemalan coat of arms was added to the center of the flag. The coat of arms contains five main elements. The bird is the Resplendent Quetzal, and is a species distinct to Central America and also symbolizes liberty. The scroll contains the phrase, “Libertad 15 de Septiembre de 1821,” meaning “September 15, 1821 is that date of Central America’s independence from Spain.” The crossed rifles with bayonets represent the Guatemalan people’s willingness to defend their country by force if necessary. The crossed swords represent honor and the laurel branches, common to many coats of arms, signify victory.

Guatemala used several different flags between its independence from Spain in 1821 and the adoption of its current flag. When Guatemala was part of the Federal Republic of Central America (1825-1838), it flew a blue and white tricolor flag, but with horizontal stripes instead of vertical stripes. After the dissolution of the Federal Republic, Guatemala flew the same tricolor but with a different coat of arms in the center until 1851. When a pro-Spanish faction took over Guatemala in 1851, red and yellow stripes were included in the Guatemalan flag until 1871.