MEANING OF FLAG DESIGN AND COLORS[FEEDBACK]
I receive a huge number of emails with questions about the symbolism of various flags, so I have prepared this standard reply.
There are legends, actual stories, and outright misinformation about the reason certain colors or designs were put on national flags.
However, the degree to which these are relevant varies widely and, mostly, has no bearing on the current use of the flag.
Some of the stories about flags, such as the legend about Betsy Ross, are outright false or completely inaccurate.
How much truth is there in the stories about the meaning of the Greek flag? It is hard to tell, and, again, not relevant in the current context.
Generally speaking, one can ascribe meaning to certain symbols. For example, the Cross in the flags of Greece, the Scandinavian countries and British flags is a symbol of Christianity.
Similarly, the Arabic writing on the flag of Saudi Arabia "There is no god but God, Mohammed is His Messenger" and "God is Great" on the flag of Iraq are also Islamic.
The Star of David in the flag of Israel is an ancient Jewish symbol.
Religious symbolism can also be expressed via color, such as green, often used in Arab/Islamic countries, such as Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the green stripe in the flags of Kuwait, Jordan, Palestine, etc. The flags of Turkey, Tunisia and Pakistan include the crescent moon, another traditional symbol, found on several flags of Muslim countries.
Communist derived flags may include a hammer and Sickle, such as the flag of USSR, the former Soviet Union and the current flag of Angola, or a red background, such as the flags of China and Vietnam.
The Eagle has been used as a national or imperial symbol since the times of the Roman Empire, which was a huge and enduring Christian territory for over a millennium. Consequently, many Christian, imperial and other aspiring successors and hopefuls have adopted similar emblems, including Germany, Egypt, Russia and the ancient Orthodox Christian churches.
Other symbols can be self explanatory, like the "R" in the middle of the old Rwanda flag. Or they can be explained by the history of a country, such as the image of the Cedar tree in the flag of Lebanon [Go to the HOME page, scroll down and click on LEBANON, then on the next page click on HISTORY.]
You can also gain some insight from the DESCRIPTION of a flag, which occasionally includes some information on symbolism, in the CIA World Factbook. Go to the HOME page, scroll down and click on a country name, then on that country's menu click on GOVERNMENT. On the government page of the country scroll down to the paragraph "Flag description".
The main point of all of the above is that it is not a good idea to be trying to assign specific meaning to the design of every flag and, consequently, it is not a good assignment for students. So,
ATTENTION TEACHERS: There are so many interesting and vital aspects of a country that are not only more meaningful and more accurate, but also more useful that the supposed meaning behind a flag design, that all concerned would be better off, especially the students, if you were to assign country specific research that does NOT involve meanings of flags.
Flags are very colorful and they can be used for identifying countries, or for very young students to learn about colors. It may be useful to know to which country a flag belongs, but not really to know of any hidden meaning behind it.
There are over 38,000 web pages with country information at http://www.theodora.com/wfb and still growing. Try to choose what is likely to be of most practical use to the student.
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