curiosità bandiere del mondo

Flags from the world: curiosities and meanings

When we think of any state, one of the first things that comes to mind, perhaps the first, is its flag, with its colors and its shapes. Or you can immediately think of a question: how is the flag of that state made?

The flag is perhaps the purest form of a state’s identity. A flag, a “simple” set of colors and shapes, is the maximum representation of the history, culture, tradition of a country and its people. The flag strikes and fascinates, for the enormous symbolic value that this contains, describing, without the use of words, the past and the present of a nation. 

Just speaking of symbolic value, the flag has always been, and still is today, first of all a symbol. The symbol that can communicate a lot of things, according to the context of use, from the sense of belonging to the nation, up to political purpose, protest, affirmation of status, by those who take a flag with a particular meaning to communicate something totally different.

The world of flags is therefore a deep world, full of meanings and history, which has always fascinated and will always continue to fascinate.

In this article we want to collect some of the mostinteresting curiosities about the flags of the world, for a “journey” into the universe of these “symbols”.

Curiosities about the flags of the world

Let’s start with a curiosity related to a very frequent question: “Are there two identical flags in the world?”

The question is legitimate because, when you think about it, taking the flags of the whole world, so many of them can look very similar, for colors, layout, shapes. It can easily happen to an amateur to confuse the flag of one State with another, just because of these similarities.

Really the right answer to the above question is: “No, there are not!”

Flags of the world: similar, but not the same!

The similarities can undoubtedly deceive, but there are not even two identical flags in the world, because each is distinctive of the history, tradition, identity of a single nation.

It can happen to find flags that look identical, but where it is only a color or even a shade of the same color that varies.

This is the case of the flags of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, where only the last stripe is different, from blue to light blue. Or considering two flags more similar to each other, those of Chad and Romania could be confused, because they differ only for the shade of blue.

Other flags, on the other hand, may seem completely identical if it were not for their shape. This is the curious case of the flags of Indonesia and Monaco, both characterized by two horizontal bands, one white and one red, and quite identical, if not for their different length!

Another matter is for the flag of Poland, which is simply a false equal to the two flags mentioned above, having the colors inverted, white and red.

The same applies to the Irish flag, very similar to the Italian flag, if not for orange replacing red, and identical to the flag of Côte d’Ivoire, but with inverted colors.

Two identical flags of the world?

There are therefore many similar flags, some of which are distinguished only by a detail of shape and color, but every flag in the world is unique.

However, talking about curiosity, we have to say that really there have been two totally identical flags in the past.

It happened with Haiti and Liechtenstein, two states not so large, but in 1936, during the Berlin Olympics, they found their flags close to each other and discovered that they had the same identical flags, consisting of two horizontal bands, one blue and one red.

Following that bizarre “meet”, both flags were varied: Liechtenstein added the symbol of the crown in the upper left, Haiti instead added to the center of the flag the emblem that we can still see today on the white background.

The colors in the flags of the world

Colors, therefore, are often the main cause of confusion between different flags, but they are rarely causal! They are undoubtedly one of the main distinctive elements of the flags of the world, but not always the use of similar colors by different states are only the result of chance.

More often, it can be seen that countries with similar or close traditions, history and cultures end up having common colors in their flag.

This is because color also has a high symbolic load and almost always its meaning derives from what it represents or has represented culturally and politically in the history of that population.

The recurring elements and symbols in the flags of the world

In the same way as colors, on the flags of the world you can also find specific  recurrent elements that characterize and unite peoples and cultures.

Just think of the cross present in numerous flags, from the English to the Scandinavian ones, symbol of Christianity that has characterized the history of those peoples, while among the African and Middle Eastern flags it is much more likely to find elements such as the Crescent and the Star, symbols of the Islamic religion.

Symbols that unite different states, therefore, implicitly telling their history and culture. And you know, religion always plays an important role for the history of a people, in fact today one flag in three around the world contains a religious reference!

The famous flags of the world

So, through colors or banners you could try to hypothesize the context, culture and meaning even of flags that apparently do not know or recognize each other.

On the other hand, it is not so easy to recognize every single flag of the world, even if some of them are well known and “popular” not only that they are recognized immediately, but also to be remembered by their own nickname!

It’s the case of the famous “Stars and Stripes” of the United States, so full of meaning in our culture, or the “Union Jack” that represents the United Kingdom.

Precisely on the meaning and origin of the latter there is an interesting curiosity, since it contains the symbols of the States that make up the United Kingdom, except Wales, but also including Ireland, which is not part of it.

The flag consists of three crosses: The Cross of St. George, representing England; the Cross of St Andrew, representing Scotland; the St Patrick’s Cross, to represent Ireland of course.

There is no Wales, however, despite part of the United Kingdom, because at the time of the creation of the flag, in 1606, the state was still part of England. The last curious fact about the history of this flag is that, despite the troubled history between England and Ireland, the flag of the United Kingdom still maintains the St Patrick’s Cross today, even after the Independence of Southern Ireland (or Eire) from the United Kingdom, in 1921.

Changing flags of the world

Even though this detail that has withstood the years and separations, the Union Jack has changed so much throughout history, just like many other flags.

Change and variations, in fact, are part of the very nature of the flags of the world, because they reflect the society, the history of peoples and show, in their changes, all the peculiarities of the different historical periods in which they “live”.

The German flag, in this sense, is one of the flags that has undergone the most variations over the years, even radical, because of the troubled history of a state that has lived through empires, wars, regimes, divisions, unifications, republics.

The change, however, is not an exclusive feature of the German flag and its history. All the flags in their history have changed, adapting each time to the current moment, and reflecting their society, culture, religion. All the flags except the one of Denmark, to now the only flag in the world that hasn’t changed during the years, since its creation in 1625!