Flags Around the World
Many Americans celebrate their patriotism on July 4th to commemorate the anniversary of when the Declaration of Independence was signed. But did you know about Flag Day, which is just a few weeks before on June 14th? This holiday honors our American flag, the most recognized symbol of our country’s values, and it has a rich history.
Honoring the Mother Country
Before it was official, one of the first flags of our young country was the Grand Union flag, which featured 13 alternating red and white stripes, just like ours today, but instead of stars in the upper left blue field, it featured the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George and looks similar to the flag of Britain.
Making It Official
The first American flag became official on June 14, 1777 when the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act, giving our flag its current design of 13 alternating red and white stripes representing the 13 colonies, and white stars on a blue field that signified the number of states.
Of course at the time, the United States only had 13 states, so the flag, rumored to be sewn by Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross, featured 13 stars in a circle. Now the flag has 50 stars for each of our 50 states, but it kept the red and white stripes to honor the 13 original colonies.
Great Seal of Approval
Other than the number of states, the flag also officially represents American values. The Great Seal of 1782 gave significance to the colors.
White symbolizes purity and innocence; red represents valor and bravery; and blue stands for vigilance, perseverance and justice. The stars symbolize the heavens and humankind’s divine goal, and the stripes represent the sun’s emanating rays.
“Our Flag Was Still There. . .”
One of Americans’ favorite ways to honor the flag is to sing our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. But do you know the poignant history of our unique national anthem?
It was written by Francis Scott Key, who was in awe of seeing our flag still waving after the British bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.
Inspired, Key wrote the words that Americans cherish today, which include, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
The actual Star-Spangled Banner recently underwent a seven-year conservation treatment and is currently on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
What it Means Today
According to Clark Rogers, the acting executive director of the National Flag Foundation, the Flag Act also stated that the white stars represent “a new constellation.”
“The flag is a symbol of our democratic republic and our freedom, independence and the potential of our nation,” Rogers says. “Citizens throughout the nation comment to the NFF that in situations of peace and war or crisis, the flag reminds us, and is a symbol, that Americans are unified.”
Make Your Own Flag!
A lot of thought and consideration went into the American flag so it could serve as a visual symbol for our country.
Make a flag with your family to represent your family’s values, strengths and hopes. Visit your local library and find out why countries chose certain symbols and colors for their flags.
Use your answers to the following questions to help you decide how to design your own family flag!
- How are your family members alike? How are they different?
- What are things your family likes to do together?
- How is your family unique and different from other families?
- What do you love most about your family?
Take this quiz to see if you can guess which country this flag belongs to. Use the clues to learn something new and to help you figure it out!
[Image of Switzerland flag]
The flag of this country, which was neutral during World War II, is often noted for its resemblance to the Red Cross symbol and is the only square flag in the world besides the Vatican’s. Most countries’ flags are oblong.
[Image of Australia flag]
Very similar to the Grand Union version of the American flag, this flag belongs to a country that also has historical links to Britain and is known for its kangaroos and koala bears.
[Image of Jamaica flag]
This tropical country expresses the symbolism of its flag’s colors with the words: “The sun shineth, the land is green and the people are strong and creative.” Black is for the strength and creativity of the people; gold is for the natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and green is for hope and the country’s resources.
[Image of Malawi flag]
This African country’s name means flaming waters, and refers to a lake of the same name during sunset, which explains the flag’s sun symbol. The green refers to the lush country landscape; the red is for those who died fighting for independence; and the black is a reminder of the African people who live in this country.
[Image of Portugal flag]
This country’s coat of arms is displayed on its flag and includes a navigational instrument known as an armillary sphere behind its shield to symbolize the numerous explorations by this country’s many navigators.
By WG Crampton, Karl Shone and Martin Plomer
This photographic essay book discusses the flags from countries all over the world and also talks about the meanings of the shapes and colors on flags.
American Flag Q&A
By Sarah L Thompson
Find all the information you need in this book that answers questions about our American flag and flags in general, such as, “How are all flags alike?” or “Where did the nickname Old Glory come from?”
Flag Lore of All Nations
By Whitney Smith
A comprehensive resource guide, this alphabetically arranged book explores each country’s flag and its history, symbolism and any lore that surrounds it.
Flags of America
The National Flag Foundation and Carousel Films give an overview of the different flags of our country when it was born and as it grew.