Flags And Their Meanings

Flags are seen everywhere – especially this year with the likes of the Olympics, the Euros and Wimbledon. They are a representation of pride, and they are one of the most diverse things around as they are used to represent beliefs, countries, football teams, major events and even businesses. One traditional way that flags and flagpoles were used was in marching bands and flag hoisting ceremonies.

Flags and their poles have been around for centuries but before the existence of flags people were still distinguished. This is because people knew that they had to be separated from others in some way, such as their tribes. Back then people decorated their spears and staff which not only distinguished them from other tribes their decorations also showed their cultural beliefs; as time progressed people also added decorations such as ribbon, silk or leather to their spears. Explorers who landed on unknown land would also use a similar technique in order to make their presence known, at first they would use a cross or a sculpture but this then progressed to the use of flags.

Every country has their own flag as a national symbol but sometime a group of countries will also have a flag to represent their unity, for example the EU has its own flag that displays a star for every member and although England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have their own flags they also have the Union Jack, which is the flag of the United Kingdom, to show the unity of the countries.


Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/borkurdotnet/691053039/

Although during huge sporting events it is common to see flags flying from people’s window, attached to cars and stuck to the side of houses, for formal events it is necessary to have a flagpole. This is the part of the flag that is often forgotten but is obviously, extremely important, as without this the flag could not fly. Flagpoles are generally made of wood or metal and the flag is raised using a pulley system that is attached to the top of the pole. Currently, the three tallest flagpoles in the world are standing in Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and North Korea.

So, now you know where flags came from and what they’re for, have you ever wondered why certain countries have particular images or symbols on their flags?

  • The SUN symbolises energy and unity within a country; Japan is a country that uses this idea on its flag and is known as the ‘land of the rising sun’
  • The MOON is usually only displayed as a proportion of the moon, in order for people to be able to differentiate it from the image of the sun. The moon is a popular feature on the flags of countries that practice the Islamic faith; this is because, combined with a star, the moon signifies divinity.
  • STARS that can be seen on the flag of the USA and Australia – along with others – represent energy. This is especially true if they a features in the night sky or within a constellation.
  • The CROSS on a flag used to represent the four points on the compass, however since the 4th century it has been a representation of faith.
  • When a TRIANGLE is used on a flag it can mean one of two things. If the flag belongs to a country whose main religion is Christianity then it is likely to represent the Trinity (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit). On the other hand it is also used to represent strength and power.
  • The Swiss flag is the only SQUARE flag in the world. A square represents balance and equal opportunities, due to its equal four sides.

Although these are the main generic symbols that you will see on national flags there are a lot of countries that have their own personal symbols for reasons relating to the country. Cyprus, for example, has a map of Cyprus on their flag as it was one of the only designs that both Greece and Turkey could agree on. Canada on the other hand has a Maple leaf, this not only depicts the country’s national tree but also the care that they have for the environment.

As you can see, the history and origins of the flag along with the reason that certain symbols are used is a lot deeper than people would first think. Ideas similar to the one that the flag represents have been around for centuries and it’s not likely to change in the near future.

This article was written by Hannah Fairhead explaining the importance of flags and flagpoles; the article was written on behalf of http://www.northernflags.com.

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