Fun with Flags: What do flags stand for- significance & meaning
There’s something about seeing your country’s flag hoisted that makes you proud of who you are, doesn’t it?
A flag is like a thumbprint of a country or institution- reflecting and communicating its unique identity. The elements of a flag- colors, shapes and symbols are all used to highlight the country’s features, history and values that it stands for. It is a patriotic symbol that reminds us of our roots and our culture. The importance of flags is underscored by the fact that they represent their respective countries in international meets, summits and festivals.
As we had mentioned in our previous article about flags, we were inspired by Jim Parsons (a.k.a Sheldon Cooper) teaching vexillology, the study of flags, on his “Fun with Flags” shows. This is the second post of our own version of “Fun with Flags”, where we look at interesting facts, meanings and tidbits about flags from around the world. Let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.
Flags of popular countries, their meaning & significance
Overview: Brazil’s flag was adopted in November, 1889. A Brazilian philosopher and mathematician named Raimundo Teixeira Mendes is credited with creating the flag. It comprises of a blue circle with stars and an inscription “Ordem e Progresso” inside a yellow rhombus on a green background. A lot of you might be familiar with the flag especially if you follow the sport of football.
Meaning of Brazil’s flag:
- Green background: symbolizes Brazil’s lush green fields and forests.
- Yellow diamond: symbolizes the country’s wealth in gold.
- Blue circle: a blue celestial globe representing the starry sky.
- White stars: the 27 white five-pointed stars represent the Brazilian states and the Federal district. The stars are part of 9 constellations and are arranged in the same pattern as the sky over Rio de Janeiro on November 15, 1889 (when the flag was first flown).
- Inscription: On the blue circle is a white equatorial band with Brazil’s national motto “ORDEM E PROGRESSO”, which is Portuguese for ‘Order and Progress’.
People’s Republic of China
Overview: The flag of China was first hoisted on October 1, 1949 at a ceremony formally announcing the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The flag was designed by Zeng Liansong as part of a competition organized to submit designs for the national flag. The competition received about 3000 entries and Zeng’s design was chosen with slight modifications. The flag comprises of a large golden star within an arc of four smaller golden stars in the upper left corner (also called the canton) on a red background. The flag is often referred to as the “Five-star Red Flag”.
Meaning of China’s flag:
- Red background: symbolizes the communist revolution. Golden was used as the color of the stars to radiate on the red background.
- Large golden star: represents the Communist Party of China.
- Four smaller golden stars: represent the 4 social classes – the working class, the peasantry, the urban bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. Together the 5 stars represents the unity of the people of China under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.
United States of America
Overview: The flag of United States of America was first adopted on June 14, 1777. At the time of its first official adoption, it contained 13 horizontal alternating red and white stripes and a blue field in the upper left corner containing 13 stars. The number 13 was significant as it represented the 13 original colonies that declared independence from the British and formed the United States. Since then, the flag has been modified 26 times as the number of states increased and the current 50-star flag was adopted on July 4, 1960 and is the longest-running version of the flag. It is known by many names including The Stars and Stripes, Old Glory and The Star-Spangled Banner.
Meaning of United States of America’s flag:
- Red color: represents valor, strength and hardiness.
- White color: represents purity and innocence.
- Blue color: represents perseverance, vigilance and justice.
- 13 stripes: represents the original 13 colonies that formed the U.S.
- 50 stars: represents the 50 states of the nation.
Overview: The flag of Australia was first flown in Melbourne on September 3, 1901 (September 3 is also the Australian National Flag Day). A slightly modified design, however, was approved by King Edward-VII in 1903. The flag’s design was chosen from a competition held in 1901. The flag comprises of the Union Jack in the upper left corner, a large white seven-pointed star below the Union Jack and five stars in the right half representing the Southern Cross constellation.
Meaning of Australia’s flag:
- Union Jack: symbolizes Australia’s history of British colonization and loyalty to the British Empire.
- Large white 7-pointed star: Also known as the Commonwealth Star or Federation Star. 6 of its 7 points represent Australia’s 6 states. The seventh point was added in 1908 to represent the Territory of Papua and other future territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. (Papua later gained independence from Australia)
- Southern Cross constellation: The Southern Cross constellation, comprising of 5 stars, is a way of symbolizing Australia’s geographical location as the constellation is only visible in the Southern Hemisphere and visible from all over Australia.
Overview: The flag of South Korea was officially adopted on October 15, 1949 although it had been used prior to that as well. Also known as the Taegeukgi, it consists of a red and blue circle composed of interlocking spirals (called the Taegeuk) surrounded by four different black trigrams set against a white rectangular background.
Meaning of South Korea’s flag:
- White background: symbolizes peace and purity. White is a traditional color of the South Koreans.
- 4 trigrams: The trigram on the upper left with 3 unbroken bars symbolizes heaven and justice, the lower left trigram symbolizes sun (fire), the upper right trigram symbolizes moon (water) & wisdom and the lower right trigram symbolizes earth and vitality. Together, they represent the principle of movement and harmony.
- Red and Blue Taegeuk: Derived from the philosophy of yin-yang, it represents the balance of the universe. The blue part, Yin, represents the negative cosmic forces while the red part, Yang, represents the positive cosmic forces. The circle represents unity by bringing together the positive and the negative.
Republic of South Africa
Overview: The flag of South Africa was adopted on April 27, 1994. It was chosen to symbolize unity and represent the country’s new democracy after the end of Apartheid. The flag was designed by a vexillologist named Frederick Brownell, who has also designed the flag of Namibia. At the time of its adoption, it was the only flag to have six colors in its design. Its design comprises of red and blue horizontal stripes separated from a central green ‘Y’ by white stripes and the ends of the green band enclose two triangles of black and yellow respectively.
Meaning of South Africa’s flag:
- Black, Green and Yellow: These colors were taken from the banners of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress to represent South Africa’s black population. Individually, black symbolizes the people, green the fertility of the land and yellow represents mineral wealth.
- Red, White and Blue: These colors are representative of European colonists as well as of the flags of the old Boer republics (self-governed republics created by Dutch-speaking inhabitants in the 19th century), thus signifying the country’s white population.
- The ‘Y’: Symbolizes unification of various ethnic groups and ushering in a new united South Africa.
Overview: The flag of Iceland was officially adopted on June 19, 1915 thought the laws regarding the flag were officially described on June 17, 1944 when Iceland became a republic. The flag comprises of a red cross enclosed within a white cross on a blue background. The cross design is modeled after the flag of Denmark.
Meaning of Iceland’s flag:
- Blue background: symbolizes the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds Iceland.
- White color: represents the snow and ice that covers most parts of the country for most of the year.
- Red color: symbolizes the 100+ active and inactive volcanoes in Iceland.
- The cross: The cross is a symbol of Christianity.
Overview: The flag of Pakistan was adopted in its current form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, 3 days before it gained independence on August 14, 1947. It was designed by Amiruddin Kidwai and is based on the flag of the All-India Muslim League, the political party instrumental in the separation of Pakistan from India. The flag has a white crescent moon and a five-pointed star on a green background and a vertical white stripe at the hoist side.
Meaning of Pakistan’s flag:
- Green color: symbolizes Islam and the Muslim population.
- White color: symbolizes the minority religions. Together, green and white represent peace and economic success.
- White Crescent: representative of progress.
- Star: symbol of light and knowledge.
Overview: The flag of India was adopted in its present form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly on July 22, 1947 and became the official flag of India on August 15, 1947, India’s Independence Day. Known as the Tiranga (meaning ‘tricolor’), it is based on the Swaraj flag of the Indian National Congress that was designed by Pingali Venkayya. It comprises of 3 horizontal bands of saffron, white and green respectively with the Ashok Chakra (a 24-spoked wheel) in navy blue in the center
Meaning of India’s flag:
- Saffron color: symbolizes courage, bravery and sacrifice.
- White color: symbolizes truth, purity and peace.
- Green color: symbolizes faith, fertility and prosperity.
- Ashok Chakra: Known as the dharmachakra or wheel of virtue, the 24-spoked wheel represents Dharma or life principles that are at the crux of many faiths including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The wheel also signifies motion and growth as a reminder that India cannot oppose change.