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Interesting Facts for Kids about the Flags of the World
Why are there so many different world flags? What are the most common symbols on flags? What does the colours on the flags mean? So many questions... we will show you the answers here.
Well, first let's see why people started using flags.
Antique Shield and Spear
In earlier centuries certain groups of people had decorated spears and decorated staff which showed their cultural symbols. Later people also used ribbons, leather or silk decorations on the spears to distinguish their group from another group.
The early explorers always put crosses or sculptures up when they landed on unknown land, but later they used flags to proclaim their presence or show the sovereignty.
Why do countries have flags?
Flags in front of the United Nations building
Flags a show that we belong to a community, organisation or nation and that we share beliefs, goals, rules and regulations.
Flags are national symbols. Every country has got a specific flag as their national symbol. The first flags were flown in the 18th century to tell others that we own a piece of land ('proclaim a possession') and that we rule over the people and land ('proclaim sovereignty').
Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon
When Neil Armstrong was the first man to land on the moon and made the first steps on the moon in 1969, he erected an American flag on the moon. Above you can see a picture of this historic event.
Tenzing Norgay on Mount Everest 1953
Sir Edmund Hillary and the sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first men to climb and reach the top of the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest, put up the British 'Union Jack' when they reached the summit of Mount Everest in May 1953.
Hillary was in fact from New Zealand and Norgay from Nepal, but as they went on an expedition financed and organised by Britain, they put up the Union flag of the United Kingdom.
Important Flags to know
EU Flags at the European Union Commission building
What's in a Flag? Universal Symbols in World Flags
Now which symbols are most used in flags? All cultures use certain symbols which are meaningful to them, some of the symbols are even universal, that is they have the same meaning all over the world.
• Sun: The circle of the sun symbolizes unity and energy.
Japan is referred to be the "land of the rising sun" and uses the sun (simplified as a circle) in its national flag. Another country using this powerful symbol:Argentina.
• Moon: The moon is usually displayed in crescent shape to distinguish it from the symbol of the sun. In combination with a star, the moon represents divinity and especially the Islam.
Tunisia has got three powerful symbols in its national flag: the red crescent moon and one red star rest in a white circle representing the sun, which you will see in the picture to the right. Other countries using this symbol: Turkey, Singapore.
• Stars: Constellations of stars often represent energy, especially when depicting the night sky or star constellation
The flag of the USA is called "Stars and Stripes"Other countries using the stars as symbol: Australia,New Zealand,Brazil.
• Cross: In ancient times the cross only symbolized the different points of the compass, in the 4th century however the cross was also taken as the symbol of faith.
Countries using this symbol: England (see the flag to the right), Sweden,Norway,Switzerland
• Triangle: The three points of a triangle represent the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in Christianity. The triangle often also symbolizes strenght and power. Countries using this symbol: Bahamas, Eritrea, Sudan, American Samoa and others
• Square: The four even lengths of the square symbolize balance and equal opposites.
The Swiss flag is the only square flag in the world. Did you know that the flag of the international humanitarian organization 'Red Cross' uses the reverse flag? It has got a red cross on white background.
Symbols, Shapes and Colours
World Flags show different sets of color and symbols, like the sun or the moon, some cultural symbols, like the national bird or flower and sometimes even have got some writing in it, like the green flag of Saudi Arabia (see in the image).
You can distinguish country flags by colors and symbols and some countries even use other shapes than the usual rectangular shape for their national flags.
Did you know that the flag of Nepal, which is pictured on the right, is the only one world flag which is not rectangular or square shaped?
There are also many other symbols used in world flags. Canada uses a maple leave in its flag which shows that the country is caring for its nature and environment. The maple tree is Canada's national tree.