By Marilyn Vinch
A flag is a very important symbol – it has to reflect the ‘brand mission’ of the country to whom it belongs. But through a nation’s troubled history, the flag that comes to represent it requires a bit of a tweak from time to time to keep up with what’s going on in politics and society.
Here’s a look at 10 flags that have taken a winding path to become what they are today.
United States of America
The Star-Spangled Banner has been spotted everywhere from suburban lawns to the Moon. It’s so familiar, you’d think the President would be able to draw it with his eyes shut – but sadly, he failed quite dramatically even with his eyes wide open.
Canada didn’t get its own official flag until the 1960s. That’s when they adopted the maple leaf for their now-familiar standard, although the leaf had actually been a Canadian symbol as early as 1700.
Coming up to its 25th anniversary, the relatively new South African flag continues to represent the transition to a post-apartheid society. It was initially supposed be a temporary design, but was popular enough for the government to make it permanent.
Like many countries, China favors stars for its national flag, but the color scheme tells its own story: the red was chosen to represent the communist revolution. The small stars symbolize the Chinese people, brought together under the leadership of the Communist Party – symbolized by the larger star.
Despite a century of political turmoil, Portugal still has the same red and green flag it adopted to represent the Republican Party in 1911. The red represents the blood shed by those who overthrew the monarchy in the name of freedom.
Australia was colonized by the British in the late 18th century, which explains why the Union Jack has become such an important symbol. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the Aussies stopped using the Union Jack itself, instead integrating it into a new image with five stars to represent the Southern Cross Constellation and a sixth, seven-pronged Federation Star indicating each of the nation’s territories.
Egypt can also trace its current flag back to a revolution; in this case, the revolution of 1952. The Eagle of Saladin was added in 1984 as an emblem of Arab nationalism.
Hungarians can trace the color scheme of their flag as far back as the 1200s. The tricolor of red, white, and green – strength, fidelity, and hope – has been a consistent feature, although the current incarnation has only been in existence for sixty years.
Colombia used to be one with Venezuela and Ecuador, and you can trace the lineage between their similar flags. The yellow stands for the country’s riches, blue stands for nature, and red is once more the color of the blood spilled in the struggle for independence.
The Soyombo icon on the left of Mongolia’s flag is the country’s national symbol representing fire, sun, moon, earth, and water. The flag’s blue stripe evokes the eternal blue sky, while the red conjures themes of fire and prosperity.
You can learn a lot about a country’s history by looking at the changes that were made.