Celebrating Canada Day

June 19, 2018

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

April 18, 2018

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

April 4, 2018

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

January 26, 2018

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

May 9, 2016
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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

August 2, 2011

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

December 23, 2010

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.