Found this awesome story from BBC about flags in the UK and thought we would share it with everyone here. Great information and photos too!

By Bethan BellJournalist, BBC News

Flag county map

Symbols, patterns and colours have been used for millennia as ways to rally the troops, frighten foes, inspire loyalty, and recognise allies.

Think Native Americans using war paint to intimidate their enemies, the clan tartan of the Scots, standard bearers on the battlefield.

Does anything fulfil that unifying role today – and does anyone care?

Country flags fluttering in the breeze are a common sight, but flying the county flag has been relatively rare.

They are, though, experiencing something of a boom.

Worcestershire flag flying from cathedral with seagull flying by
Flying the county flag was once a rare sight

Six new county flags were registered last year, the highest ever yearly number, and more than half of England’s 30 historical county flags have been registered since 2000.

A further 15 are in the pipeline, according to the Flag Institute, which maintains and manages the national United Kingdom Flag Registry.

So what is driving the movement?

Gloucestershire flag
Gloucestershire’s Severn Cross flag was the winner of a competition organized by the county’s High Sheriff

To understand the point of county flags, the role of the counties themselves must be considered, said Dr Kenn Casey, a retired lecturer in social history.

“They give their names to clubs, societies, military regiments, and sports teams,” he said.

“But most importantly, they are places where people think they “belong”.

Andy Strangeway and a flag
Andy Strangeway, a campaigner for the recognition of historic counties, raised awareness by sleeping at the highest point in every county in Great Britain. If the county had an official flag, he took it with him.

The Local Government Act of 1974, which introduced administrative counties based on the local authority, seemed to eliminate some counties overnight by moving the geographical boundaries.

But this is not the case.

Registering a new flag

A new design refers to a flag which is original but may still include elements of traditional icons and symbols

  • If a flag has been in use, but unregistered, for a long period of time an application may be made by anyone. There must be compelling evidence of provenance
  • A local authority may apply, but must detail the design’s relevance to the area in question and outline the intended use for the flag and the symbolism of the design
  • A public competition can be held to come up with a new design

Source: Charles Ashburner, Flag Institute

An activist for the recognition of traditional counties, Andy Strangeway, whose campaigns have established a handful of new flags, explained: “On 1 April 1974 I was a young lad who had gone to bed the previous night in the East Riding and woke up in Humberside – or so the powers that be like us to believe.

“The truth is that the River Tees is still the boundary between Yorkshire and County Durham and the River Humber is still the boundary between Yorkshire and Lincolnshire today as it has been for over 1,100 years.”

On Saint George’s Day last year, Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government asserted that England’s historic and traditional counties still exist, and are now recognised by the government – including the likes of Cumberland, Huntingdonshire, Westmorland and Middlesex.

The county flag plays a crucial role in promoting recognition of traditional boundaries and names, according to Jason Saber, from the Association of British Counties.

“The county flag is a highly effective weapon in our arsenal,” he said.

“A bright eye-catching design rippling in the breeze will attract attention of itself and invariably lead to an enquiry about what or where it represents.”

County flags for Yorkshire's East Riding, North Riding and West RidingRegional flags for Yorkshire’s East Riding, North Riding and West Riding. All were chosen by public vote last year, after a campaign led by Andy Strangeway
Flags for County Durham, Lincolnshire and YorkshireFlags for County Durham, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire
Some of the proposed designs for (l-r) Bedfordshire, Surrey, Hampshire and SuffolkSome of the proposed designs for (l-r) Bedfordshire, Surrey, Hampshire and Suffolk

Mr Pickles said the widespread flag flying during the royal wedding, Diamond Jubilee and Olympics is evidence of a gradual cultural change in Britain.

“Flags deserve our respect.

“Not only do they convey power and status but they can create deep pride and bring unbridled joy,” he added.

Map and flag
The historic county of Westmorland, and the county’s official flag which was registered in 2011

Social psychologist Rachelle Dwyer said there is some truth in Mr Pickles’ suggestion that public celebrations could have triggered an interest in community feeling.

“Street parties and the like got people together.

“In a fast-moving society where it is common for people not to know their neighbours, there would be a certain comfort in rediscovering community spirit, and a reluctance to abandon it,” she said.

Can that alone explain the recent surge of interest in county flags?

Logically, no.

Essex flagThe flag of Essex is ancient in origin and features three Saxon seaxes

The earliest of Mr Pickles’ examples, the royal wedding, took place in 2011. But the increase began a decade before that.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Flags deserve our respect. They convey power…but they can create deep pride and bring unbridled joy”

Eric PicklesSecretary of State for Communities and Local Government

In 2002, the county flag for the Isles of Scilly was registered after a campaign by a local newspaper, the Scilly News.

It opened the floodgates. In the next 12 years, more than a third of new flags were established as a result of competitions held by local media.

They generate publicity for the press, which has a vested interest in encouraging people to identify themselves with their counties.

A third reason, according to Mrs Dwyer, is simply human nature.

“When someone sees a county with a flag, their reaction could be “I want one too.”"

Envy aside, is there a point in having a flag, and do they mean anything to the communities they represent?

It depends, said Dr Casey.

Crest, logo and flagWorcestershire’s county council, cricket team and county flag all bear pear tree symbols

Arms belonging to a county council may be incorporated into any flag, but they belong solely to the organisation to which they were granted, and do not, as is often assumed, represent the county as a whole.

But that very assumption means counties already have symbolic identities – Essex’s swords, Lancashire’s red rose, Yorkshire’s white.

Flag design guidelines

  • Keep it simple. The flag should be easy enough for a child to draw from memory, or it will be too hard for people to remember and reproduce
  • Use meaningful symbols. The flag’s elements, colours, or patterns should relate to what it will represent
  • Use two or three basic colours, and make sure they contrast well.
  • Do not use lettering or seals. Writing and intricate designs are difficult to make out and will be the wrong way round on one side of the flag
  • Be distinctive. Flags too similar could be misidentified
  • Consider how the flag will look flying in the wind or drooping from the pole. Flags very rarely fly flat

Source: Flag Institute

Worcestershire’s official flag, granted a year ago, features the black pear – the emblem borne by men from the county at the Battle of Agincourt – and a green and blue background symbolising the floodplain of the River Severn as it runs through the county.

The pears are already on the county council’s arms, Worcestershire County Cricket Club’s banner, and pub signs.

The Worcestershire Rifle Volunteers of 1859 used the Pear Tree as their emblem until 1908, while pear blossom was shown as a badge by the Worcestershire Yeomanry Cavalry from the beginning of the 20th Century until 1956.

In cases like these, where administrative counties tally with the historical ones, Dr Casey argues a new flag adds little: “There is no motivation to feel particularly passionate about it.”

Huntingdonshire flag
The Huntingdonshire flag, which was established by the Huntingdonshire Society

But when the historical county is no longer an administrative one, a flag assumes a much greater importance.

“People still identify with those counties – there are still Middlesex, Huntingdonshire and Cumberland county cricket clubs, and a Westmorland cricket league,” he said.

A county flag can reinforce that sense of identity where it might otherwise become fragile.

MapThe seven kingdoms of Anglo Saxon England: Mercia, East Anglia, Northumbria, Wessex, Essex, Kent and Sussex

People living in Cumberland or Westmorland, for example, now officially live in Cumbria under the remit of Cumbria County Council.

“If someone is told something enough, they will eventually come to believe it,” said Mrs Dwyer.

“So there is a chance a strong identity would be compromised.”

In response to the disappearance of their administrative county, a Huntingdonshire Society was set up to promote awareness of the historic county.

In 2009, the organisation was successful in registering an official Huntingdonshire flag.

One obvious exception is Cornwall, where the historical county and administrative one are the same, but the flag is well known and well represented.

Lancashire flag
The red rose is the traditional symbol of Lancashire and yellow and red are the livery colours of the county

Cornwall is historically a Celtic land, and is not one of the seven kingdoms of Anglo Saxon England: Mercia; East Anglia; Northumbria; Wessex; Essex; Kent and Sussex.

The peninsula has its own language and four elected county councillors from a nationalist party.

According to Cornwall Council, in the 2011 census 73,200 people out of a total population of 530,000 said they had a distinct Cornish, rather than English, national identity.

From this perspective, the Cornish flag is not a county flag at all, but comparable to the Scottish saltire, the Welsh dragon or England’s cross of Saint George.

So do any symbols, patterns or colours fulfil that unifying role to rally the troops, frighten foes, inspire loyalty, and recognise allies?

And does anyone care?

The answer to both questions, in Dr Casey’s words, is “sometimes”.

St Piran's day procession
St Piran’s day is celebrated in Perranporth, Cornwall, with an annual procession

HUNTINGTON PARK ( — A 27-year-old Los Angeles man was arrested Thursday for allegedly attempting to sell counterfeit U.S. flags, police said.

Investigators recovered 27 pallets of fake American flags during “Operation Bogus Stars & Stripes” at approximately 9:30 a.m. in the 2000 block of Belgrave Avenue, according to Huntington Park Police Lt. Neal Mongan.

The raid was launched following tips from representatives of the New Jersey-based Annin Flagmakers, who contacted police after learning that someone in Huntington Park was attempting to sell counterfeit product as authentic Annin flags, Mongan said.

Undercover investigators posing as buyers met with the suspect and negotiated a deal to buy the flags – which were being represented as authentic American flags manufactured by Annin – as part of the operation, according to Mongan.

Investigators said the flags had fraudulent markings for the real flag manufacturer and later determined the counterfeit flags were manufactured in China and not by Annin.

The estimated value of the flags was $340,000 if they had been sold to unsuspecting consumers as authentic flags by the manufacturer or their licensed distributors, Mongan said.

The suspect was booked at the Huntington Park Police Department on charges of possessing counterfeit trademarked products for sale.

No immediate court date was announced.

Arkansas’ teams up with You Matter Bike Tour, a cross country bicycle tour that leaves from Long Beach, NY and ends at Long Beach, CA to support the nation’s veterans with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Ken Carr, one of the organizers and cyclists who suffered a traumatic brain injury during his military service said, “We are riding to raise awareness of veterans suffering with the invisible wounds of war and to raise as much money as possible to help build nine state-of-the-art special treatment centers for veterans suffering with TBI’s [Traumatic Brain Injuries] and PTSD.”

The group has partnered with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to insure that 100% of all the funds raised will go directly toward the design and construction of the facilities. .

Kerry McCoy, owner of said, “We are proud to be a sponsor of such a worthwhile cause – helping our brave men and women in uniform who sacrifice so much for our nation. We are looking forward to following along the riders’ 5,000 mile trek and we will be posting updates on our own Facebook account to let our customers easily follow along as well.”

Arkansas’ Flag and Banner started in 1975 as a one woman door-to-door business selling the most patriotic of America’s symbols – the red, white and blue U.S. flag. During the past 39 years Arkansas’ Flag and Banner grew from that one woman show to a multi-million dollar distributor, retailer, and manufacturer. In 1995 they became an internet retailer. In 2000 the company officially began marketing as simply

The You Matter riders will leave Long Beach, NY on April 22, 2014 and will be traveling roughly 75 miles per day until they reach their destination.  The ride will pass through towns of all sizes all across America and stop to admire and visit with people at the U.S.S. Intrepid Museum, the Liberty Bell, various Veterans’ hospitals in Kentucky and other states, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and finally arrive in Long Beach, CA at the Queen Mary on July 4th.

Arkansas’ provided the bike tour with bicycle flagpoles and hardware and some miniature flags to hand out to children and others on stops along the way. Carr approached’s marketing department with a request for bicycle flagpoles on April 9, 2014 because, “You were the only place we found that still carries bike poles!” is one of the few flag dealers in the nation to still carry bicycle flagpoles and the company as a whole was glad to provide them to Carr’s group. “It is a pleasure to work with groups such as the You Matter Bike Tour group. We are glad that our product was something they could certainly use for this event. Ken worked with our marketing department and the poles were shipped out just 3 business days after his initial call for our help,” McCoy stated.

From the New York Times:


Flags on the National Mall on Thursday represented the hundreds of veterans who have committed suicide this year. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Volunteers in dark green hooded sweatshirts spread out across the National Mall on Thursday, planting 1,892 small American flags in the grass between the Washington Monument and the Capitol. Each flag represented a veteran who had committed suicide since Jan. 1, a figure that amounts to 22 deaths each day.

Civilians stood among the waving flags in solidarity with veterans like Michael Blazer, a former sergeant in the Army who had a friend commit suicide when he got back from Afghanistan.

“He shot himself in the same room as me and a friend of mine,” Mr. Blazer said. “I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD because of that, so a lot of these issues are what I’ve personally been dealing with. But above and beyond, I’m out here in memory of him.”

The event was part of an awareness campaign mounted by members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group focused on issues affecting the nation’s newest veterans. They are in Washington this week as part of their leadership development program, Storm the Hill, and to support the introduction of legislation aimed at preventing suicides and providing more mental health resources for service members home from combat.

Event organizers said that the issues were a top priority for veterans and their families, and that they wanted to make them a priority for Congress, too.

Senator John Walsh, Democrat of Montana and the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the Senate, introduced the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act on Thursday. For Mr. Walsh, the issue is personal: A sergeant who served under him when he commanded an infantry battalion in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 committed suicide after returning home.

“We’ve waited too long to take on this action,” he said. Then, mentioning the 22 veterans who take their lives every day, he added, “That’s an epidemic that we cannot allow to continue.”

When service members leave the military, they can get five years of no-questions-asked care from Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and facilities. One of the bill’s main goals is to extend that window to 15 years.

“For instance, in Vietnam, a lot of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder didn’t show up anywhere until between seven and 12 years later,” said Kate O’Gorman, the political director at the veterans’ advocacy group. “We really want to make sure that care is available when someone is ready to seek it.”

The bill also calls for the military to set up a review process for troops who are discharged for behavior that could have been caused by mental health issues. Measures to help the Veterans Affairs agency recruit more psychiatrists are also included.

“It establishes student loan repayment for psychiatrists,” Ms. O’Gorman said. “When the private sector and even the Department of Defense are able to offer good student loan repayment programs and the V.A. is not, that can make it difficult for them to recruit.”

The striking display of red, white and blue caught the eye of almost everyone leaving a Metro station on the Mall on Thursday. One man wearing a hat with “Vietnam Veteran” stitched on the front took pictures. Others stopped to ask what was going on.

Roger Engetschwiler and his daughter, Katja, were visiting from Switzerland. They were headed to the Holocaust Memorial Museum and then the Lincoln Memorial when they paused to find out about the flags.

“We knew the subject when they told us that there’s a lot of suicide going on with veterans,” he said. “But I didn’t know the numbers were that high. That’s really scary.”

A version of this article appears in print on March 28, 2014, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Using Flags to Focus on Veteran Suicides.

MCDONOUGH, Ga. – (See video from FOX Atlanta.)

Last November, a McDonough business owner may just be vindicated after city officials fined him for flying patriotic flags above his restaurant.

A McDonough business owner tells FOX 5 he was just trying to show his patriotic spirit and give thanks to the military, but the city told him to take his flags down. A code enforcement officer cited CJ’s Hot Dogs on Friday, but Saturday, McDonough City Administrator Frederick Gardiner told him that city law is not clear in the matter.

Hot dogs are on the menu at CJ’s, but the restaurant has an appetite for service. Darren Miller says the whole place is dedicated to police, fire and military—and it’s in his blood. His father is a Vietnam veteran, and he’s a retired DeKalb County fireman.

The walls of CJ’s Hot Dogs are covered with patches from men and women who also served. Miller believes it’s his right to salute them both inside and outside his restaurant.  Three months ago, he put up flags for country, state and every branch of the military.  But on Friday, the city of McDonough sent him a citation that said the flags have to come down.

“I’m just floored,” said Miller. “And I called the guy and asked what they’re for. And he said I’m in violation with my flags flying above my restaurant.”

It didn’t take long for outraged veterans to spread the word. Some called the citation sad, while others were outright angry.

The city administrator, who didn’t realize code enforcement officers cited the restaurant until Shaw told him on Friday, told Miller that the ordinance that classifies the flags as signs is too vague and needs to be rewritten. For that reason, he says he’s asking that the citation be thrown out.

It’s a victory for Miller, the veterans, and what the flags stand for.

“I’ve had enough of it,” said Miller. “I’m tired of being pushed around for supporting our local men and women and I’m not going to be pushed around anymore.”

— How do you feel about patriotic displays such as this? Should cities and community groups revisit their sign laws to exclude flags from these types of ordinances? What if a person is flying a less than popular flag such as the Confederate flag or a Rainbow flag? Does this alter your opinion because those are “controversial”? Comment below and let us know what you think!

Prime minister John Key, who favours a silver fern design, promises voters the chance to ‘acknowledge our independence’

New Zealanders are to be given the chance to jettison the most visible remaining symbol of their colonial past in a referendum on changing the national flag.

In a speech in Wellington on Tuesday, the prime minister, John Key, promised a vote in the next parliamentary term on whether to keep the existing design, which features the union jack and four stars representing the southern cross, or replace it with an alternative, such as the silver fern on a black background or a version of the Maori koru.

Key, who personally favours the silver-fern-on-black option made famous by the All Black rugby side, said the time was ripe for “one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand”. A change to the design of the flag, currently identical to the Australian banner apart from the number and style of stars, would show the country “acknowledging our independence”.

“It’s my belief, and I think one increasingly shared by many New Zealanders, that the design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed,” he said.

Key cited Canada’s shift in 1965, from a union jack adorned flag to a maple leaf symbol, as an example. “That old flag represented Canada as it was once, rather than as it is now. Similarly, I think our flag represents us as we were once, rather than as we are now.”

He pledged to work with all political parties to establish a working group that would in turn map out a process, which would very likely involve two separate plebiscites – to determine if a change was wanted and the preferred replacement. Read more….

The group we are members of, the National Independent Flag Distributors Association has been lobbying for this provision to be passed for many years now. We were so happy to see this news:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Mike Thompson’s (D-St. Helena) bipartisan provision requiring every American flag purchased by the Department of Defense (DOD) to be 100-percent manufactured in the United States, from articles, materials, or supplies that are 100-percent of grown, produced or manufactured in the United States, was passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, and will be signed into law.
“This provision will make sure every American Flag DOD buys is made in America, by American workers with American products,” Thompson said. “I am proud to have worked to pass this law so that our men and women in uniform never have to fight under a U.S. flag made overseas, and so that our Defense Department never again spends American tax dollars on a U.S. flag made overseas.”

Thompson’s provision applies the Berry Amendment to the American Flag. The Berry Amendment, originally passed in 1941, prohibits DOD funds from being used to acquire food, clothing, military uniforms, fabrics, stainless steel and hand or measuring tools that are not grown or produced in the United States, except in rare exceptions. Thompson’s provision applies the same rules for the DOD’s acquisition of American Flags, which previously were not listed as a covered item.

Precedent already exists for such a provision. The Department of Veterans Affairs is required to only purchase U.S.-made American Flags for servicemembers’ funerals.

Thompson’s provision passed as part of H.R. 3547, the Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill.

Thompson represents California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and chairs the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.

All of’s American flags are made in USA!

Arkansas Flag and Banner
LITTLE ROCK, AR — The city of Little Rock will offer a course for current and future business owners, and one graduate spoke to us about its success.

Kerry McCoy has owned Arkansas Flag and Banner since 1975.

“I started with $400,” McCoy said.

After a few years, she wanted to expand, but had some problems.

“I wasn’t sure how to get a construction loan or how to put together a business plan to that magnitude,” McCoy said.

So she took the entrepreneurial training course offered by the city of Little Rock.

“When you are a young entrepreneur, you just need some simple questions answered,” McCoy said.

Kerry says the class helped her open a renovated building and that’s why she pushes any new entreprenuer to take the class.

The spokesperson for the program says students can learn a lot in the 10-week course.

“It’s really a way for the city of Little Rock to give back to people who are investing back into their business,” said Chauncey Holloman, spokesperson for the Little Rock Small Business Development Office.

The city says space is very limited for the class that begins Feb. 3. Enrollment closes at 5 p.m. this Friday.

Holloman says the Entrepreneurial Training Course is conducted by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Small Business and Technology Development Center.

The course covers a wide range of topics for business owners, like business concepts, feasibility, market analysis, pricing and cash flow, among many others.

Each participant receives assistance with creating a realistic business plan and will graduate with a completed plan to implement their own business idea.

Classes are held Monday evenings from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center on 12th Street.

Tuition cost for the course taught by UALR instructors and successful entrepreneurs is $100.00 for Little Rock residents and includes all classes, a textbook and business plan assistance.

For more information, contact Holloman at or 501-379-1505.

Visit for more information
Little Rock, Ark., - Yesterday as part of Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, the Mosaic Templars brought a group of student volunteers to the Dreamland Ballroom, located at 800 West 9th Street on the third floor of the Arkansas’ building.

The group of students brought great attitudes and terrific work ethic along with them, they not only painted the ballroom floor they also cleaned inside and around the outdoor area of the 800 block of 9th Street. Everyone employed at Arkansas’ was greatly impressed by the young people who turned out. These students gave up a day out of school to be a part of the Mosaic Templars challenge, though none of them seemed to feel that they were giving up anything.

Kerry McCoy, owner of Taborian Hall which houses both her company Arkansas’ and the Dreamland Ballroom praised the students as being our future in Little Rock.

McCoy spent the 2 hours the students were on hand, sharing the history of Dreamland with the young people who had no idea how important 9th Street was to the Little Rock economy and African American community. The students who were part of the MLK Challenge learned they were working to restore a part of Little Rock’s rich cultural history.

“After talking to the young people today who volunteered at Dreamland Ballroom, and finding out they don’t remember 9th Street being the black business district and Main Street being the white business district, it only validates that I am doing the right thing trying to save the Dreamland Ballroom,” McCoy told KTHV 11 reporter Macy Jenkins. When Jenkin’s asked one of the volunteer’s why does your community matter to you? The response: “Because I live here.”

In 1916, construction was completed on Taborian Hall and during the first 50 years Taborian had become many things for the 9th street community. Chief among them, a great stop for African American entertainers who today are thought of as some of America’s greatest entertainers. Performers such as B.B. King, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Nat “King” Cole, Etta James and many more graced the Dreamland stage.

Taborian Hall was also home to the USO, a place to relax for African American soldiers during the difficult period of World War II when those soldiers were still segregated from their white counterparts.

Taborian has housed businesses and doctors offices throughout the years, but in the difficult economy of the 1970′s the Taborian star began to fade and by the 1980′s the building had began to fall into disrepair. By 1991, a fire had almost completely destroyed the ballroom, leaving it open to the skies, until Little Rock entrepreneur Kerry McCoy purchased the building to house her company Arkansas’ which she started in 1975. Shortly after taking ownership, McCoy began restoration.

The staff of Arkansas’ and the Friends of Dreamland Ballroom non-profit organization wish to thank the volunteers and the Mosaic Templars for organizing the 2014 MLK Challenge.

You can see video of the event at THV 11 and in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Visit the Dreamland Ballroom Facebook for more photos from the event.

This is a great story from CNN about flags. Let us know what you think!

(CNN) — Funny things flags.

Essentially they’re just pieces of colored cloth, but run any of them up a pole and they become powerful talismans capable of making people behave in peculiar ways.

The stories behind national pennants can be inspiring, intriguing and often give an insight into the culture and history of the country.

We’re all about raising standards and we think some of the tales behind these patriotic pennants are worth saluting.

What flags do you love and why? Leave a comment.


Say what you like about over-polite Canadians, at least they’ve managed to ditch the Union flag of their former British overlords.

Canadian leaders debated furiously before finally adopting the resplendent red maple leaf in 1965, an ensign pointedly free of colonial images.

Good thing they did, because it gives Americans and Brits a useful flag to slap on their backpacks to stop people hating them.

One original proposal, rejected by parliament, featured blue stripes and a maple trefoil that almost completely failed to resemble acannabis leaf.

What to say: “The Canadian flag has saved my bacon a few times.”

Flag it up: Brockville is birthplace of the flag. Main attraction? Possibly the U.S. border 15 miles away.


Square flags are for squares.

As the only country with an ensign that doesn’t have four 90-degree corners, Nepal is in a league of its own.

Its double triangle design symbolizes the mighty peaks of the Himalayas where foreign mountaineers have planted so many other national flags.

The sun and moon symbols represent calmness and resolve — character traits needed to tolerate the Everest-sized egos of those flag-planting foreign mountaineers.

What to say: “Nepal’s 1962 design marked a new a pinnacle for world flags.”

Flag it up: You can plan a flag-planting exercise of your own via Nepal’s trekking agencies.


A flag that complements its environs.
A flag that complements its environs.

Few flags evoke the nation they represent as well as Greece’s.

The blue stripes conjure the cobalt summer skies and azure seas that annually lure millions of vacationers; the white recalls spotless coastal buildings dotting its beautiful coastline.

The nine stripes are said to represent ancient muses or possibly the number of syllables in the battle cry “eleftheria i thanatos,” meaning “freedom or death,” used in wars against the Ottomans.

What to say: “Tentative signs of a recent economic recovery are a good excuse to wave the flag.”

Flag it up: On the gorgeous Cyclades islands the buildings wear the national colors with pride.


At first glance, Bhutan’s flag appears to bear the image of a dragon on wheels.

The reality isn’t much less exciting.

The beast in question is Druk, a thunder dragon of Bhutanese Buddhist mythology. Rather than riding on castors, he is in fact clutching a spherical jewel in each claw.

As flag stories go, this one isn’t bad either.

The dragon is said to symbolize the origins of religious teachings on which Bhutan was founded.

Drukpa Buddhism was so named by its 12th-century founder, Tsangpa Gyare Yeshey Dorji, because he heard the thunderous sounds of dragons while hunting for a monastery site in Tibet.

What to say: “Vacations are never a drag-on this side of the Himalayas.”

Flag it up: It’ll cost you a dragon’s hoard of silver to travel there, but this isolated kingdom is worth it.

United States

Poor Old Glory. Those starry spangles and candy stripes have become a teensy bit overexposed thanks to recent American ventures in overseas troublespots.

This is a shame as the modern incarnation of Betsy Ross’s purported creation is an oft-imitated design of which Americans are rightly proud.

So proud in fact, it’s one of the only flags to have a National Anthem (“The Star-spangled Banner”) written specifically about it.

What to say: Oh long may it wave.

Flag it up: Don’t get into a flap about whether she designed it or not, just visit Betsy Ross’s home in Philadelphia.


Given Brazil’s skills on the pitch, you’d be forgiven for thinking its flag symbolizes a blue soccer ball being booted into space from a grassy stadium.

It doesn’t.

Less excitingly, the green harks back to Portuguese colonial-era royalty, while the slice of night sky represents, even more prosaically, federal regions.

It’s still a much-loved design, even among non-Brazilians.

What to say: “Brazil’s success in securing the upcoming soccer World Cup and Olympics justify the flag’s ‘ordem e progresso’ (order and progress) slogan.”

Flag it up: You can take your own flag to Brazil for next year’ssoccer World Cup Finals.

MORE: 8 great Brazil beaches


The simplicity of the Indonesian flag belies an interesting tale (if true).

The story goes that as they were shaking off the shackles of Dutch colonial invaders, Indonesian freedom fighters created their flag by tearing the blue strip off a Dutch tricolor.

Another version claims the flag’s colors are derived from those representing the archipelago’s 14th century Majapahit Empire.

Either way, it excuses the fact it resembles an upside-down Polish flag.

What to say: “Indonesians know how to tear a strip off oppressors.”

Flag it up: Surabaya’s luxury Hotel Majapahit is supposedly the scene of the flag-tearing incident.

MORE: 40 essential Indonesian dishes


With a book, a hoe and a gun, Mozambique\'s flag covers a lot of bases.
With a book, a hoe and a gun, Mozambique’s flag covers a lot of bases.

Mozambique’s flag features a gun!

Yes, there’s a book, symbolizing education, and, yes, there’s a hoe symbolizing agriculture.

But there’s also an AK-47 assault rifle symbolizing the country’s bloody struggle for independence.

The only national flag bearing a firearm, it’s the subject of intense debate in the now largely peaceful country.

Many there feel it’s time to ditch the weapon.

What to say: “The economy is booming, not the guns.”

Flag it up: Mozambique’s flag carrying LAM Airlines is banned in the EU.

MORE: How Mozambique became a tourist hot spot


Given that it’s so widely displayed on ships using the country’s emblem as a flag of convenience, it’s fascinating to see what they almost used.

This rather alarming alternative version, designed by Frenchman Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla, is meant to resemble the country’s famous canal.

Thankfully, then-president Manuel Amador Guerrero rejected it and hired his son to produce the current ensign, adopted in 1925.

The colors represent the country’s main political parties.

What to say: “The alternative flag would have been a danger to shipping.”

Flag it up: You can board the Panama-registered Carnival Breezefor a quiet cruise — just you and 3,689 other passengers.

MORE: Live large, pay small in Panama City


Granted home rule from Denmark in 1978, Greenlanders decided they needed something new to fly above their frosty territories.

The result, adopted in 1985, is both an exercise in classically minimalist Scandinavian design, and a bold departure from other flags favored by Nordic nations.

Many in Greenland had hoped to emulate Denmark and its neighbors by using a Christian cross — preferably white on green — but from 555 submitted designs, a committee instead chose a red and white split circle on a contrasting background.

The symbolism isn’t too hard to read: a red sun sinking down into snow and ice.

What to say: “Let’s hope global warming doesn’t necessitate a redesign.”

Flag it up: You can witness Greenland’s fantastic sunsets for yourself.

MORE: World’s 10 toughest endurance challenges

United Kingdom

Flag becomes fashion.
Flag becomes fashion.

The UK’s Union Flag has long lived a double life, serving both as national emblem and an erstwhile fashion icon — although its associations with the Swinging Sixties are these days just as likely to bring to mind Austin Powers’ underwear.

The flag itself is an exercise in nation building, originally combining the blue and white saltire of Scotland’s patron Saint Andrew and the red cross on white of England’s Saint George when the two countries united in the 18th century.

The red diagonal cross of Ireland’s Saint Patrick was added later.

Of course, all this could change again if Scottish people vote for independence in a referendum scheduled for 2014.

In which case, perhaps Wales might finally get a mention.

What to say: “Groovy, baby!”

Flag it up: The Union flags may not be so prominent these days, but London’s Carnaby Street is still a swinging center for fashion.

Learn more at CNN

Which flag do you think has the best design? The most boring? Share your opinion in the comments.