The colors of a flag are chosen for reasons far beyond their aesthetic value. The colors and graphic elements of a flag are chosen carefully and symbolize a countries identity, history, or ideals. Below is a look at the symbolism behind some of the more popular flag colors:
The color red can symbolize a struggle for independence. In a broader sense, red is indicative of bravery and courage, both of which a nation needs in order to fight for its independence. Seven of the stripes on the American flag are red, and while the stripes represent the colonies, the selected color harkens back to the fight for freedom from the British.
While a flag that is all white means 'surrender,' white is used in conjunction with other colors on a flag to indicate purity, peace, or honesty. Countries in colder climates may also use it to represent the snow that is a part of their country's environment. The white on Finland's flag is used in this manner, as parts of the Scandinavian nation are permanently covered in snow for at least half the year.
Blue on a flag has a number of meanings, including perseverance, strength, good fortune, and justice. It can also have environmental significance, demonstrating a country's ties to the ocean or the sky. For example, the United States flag has a blue field that represents justice and vigilance, but on Argentina's flag the light blue stripes are meant to represent the beautifully clear skies of the South American nation.
Easily recognizable as the color of most plants, green often represents growth and symbolizes agriculture on national flags. The flag of Bangladesh features green as its main color in order to demonstrate the country's ties to natural growth and beautiful greenery. The color green can also be a symbol of joy and hope, as it is on the Italian flag. The Italian flags' three stripes represent hope, faith, and charity respectively.
Yellow, once associated with an area under quarantine is now commonly associated with wealth given its similarity to gold, symbolizes generosity when it is used on a nation's flag. The Spanish flag uses the color yellow in this way. As the color of the sun, yellow is also used to represent energy and a joyful spirit. In fact, Argentina's flag even features a yellow sun in the center of the flag. Since 2008, Myanmar's flag has featured a yellow band that symbolizes "unity between all ethnic groups."
A common use of the color black is to represent the ethnic heritage of a nation on its flag. Black can also be used as a symbol of perseverance. Like an all white flag, an all black flag has its own specific meaning. Unlike an all white flag, an all black flag is used to send an aggressive message generally indicating war. Black is also a traditional color used by Arab and African nations. On Sudan's flag, the black stripe merely represents the country itself, as the name Sudan comes from the Arabic word meaning black.
A country's flag is important for its national identity, and no part of a flag is taken lightly when a design is being created. While colors and their associated symbolism are generally applicable to flags, many countries go a step further and assign their own symbolism to certain colors based on the country's history and/or how that color may have been used in the past. If you start to dig deeper into how different countries designed their flags, even starting with basic concepts like color, you can learn a lot about history, geography, and our entire world.
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