Getting to Know the Flags of the WorldAugust 06, 2015

Australian National Flag Day, which Aussies celebrate on September 3, commemorates the day when the Australian flag is first flown. It's a patriotic event, but you might not be interested in the flag design competition in 1901. This is about the piece of fabric that many people don't pay close attention. It's a ubiquitous sight. Sports fan expect lots of it during (sport) events. These ensigns tell something.

Every flag of every country tells something about a particular place. The colors and figures reveal a storied past. Some stand out, like the Nepalese flag. (It's the world's non-quadrilateral national flag.) Others are unique to a particular country, like the shahada (creed) and sword in the flag of Saudi Arabia. These fabrics are sacred. They are looked with reverence, so anyone desecrating it will be punished.

A majority of flags look the same, based from the colors and designs. Perhaps you're curious about it. Let's take a closer look:

Union Jack. The national flag of the United Kingdom can be seen in many parts of the world. Members of the Commonwealth realm have one thing in common, which is the Union Jack inscribed in their flags. The countries of Oceania, for instance, have been part of the British Empire. (If you've been around the region, then you figure out about Fiji and Tuvalu. You exclude Oz and our Kiwi neighbour.) The Union Jack also appears in the ensigns of the states of Canada. Former colonies like Hong Kong also have the familiar ensign. Don't be surprised if the flag of Hawaii has the Union Jack on its upper left side. (You forgot James Cook? It's not a problem.) Last but not the least, the Union Jack are seen in ensigns of vessels and aircraft of the United Kingdom. Pretty impressive, isn't it?

Crescent Moon. A number of Islamic countries feature the crescent moon in their ensigns. Many will think this is the symbol of a Muslim populace. Not exactly. It was once the ensign of the Byzantine Empire. Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, dreamed of it. He believed the crescent moon was a good omen, so the Ottomans made it their own after conquering Constantinople. A fascinating tale, which would remind some historians of Thutmose IV and the Sphinx.

Red, blue, and white. Many flags of the world have only red, blue, and white colors. It would represent certain virtues that embody the countries who have these ensigns. For instance, it's not difficult to guess the red hue as a symbol of courage. On the other hand, the red color in the French flag means fraternity. Blue is associated with justice, while white represents innocence. The long list of countries with red, blue, and white flags include Iceland, Thailand, and Cuba. It's such a small world, after all.

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