A national flag symbolizes and represents a country and is characterized by different colors and symbols with specific meanings to a particular country. National flags are often flown by governments but can also be flown citizens as a sign of patriotism. Historically, the flags were used as military standards. However, with the emergence of national sentiments, the national flags became popular in the civilian context. Different countries adopted their national flags at different stages of their national history. Although some of the countries have altered or changed the designs of their flags several times, other countries have maintained their original flags.
Oldest National Flags
The oldest national flag in the world is the flag of Denmark. The current flag which features a white Scandinavian cross on a red background has been in use since the 1370s or earlier. It was also used in sea battles during the war with Sweden in the 1560s. However, its origin remains unclear with several legends explaining the same. The current proportions of the flag, popularly known as “Dannebrog” were formalized in 1893.
The second-oldest flag is that of the Kingdom of Netherlands. The current flag design originated from the orange-white-blue variant which was adopted in 1575. In 1596, the orange color was replaced by red. The current colors were reaffirmed and formalized by a royal decree in 1937.
The Nepalese flag is the only national flag in the world that is non-quadrilateral. The double-pennon flag features three colors; red, white, and blue, sun, and a crescent moon with a rising sun. The old flag was adopted in 1743 and featured the sun and crescent moon with a human face. The human faces were removed to modernize the flag. The modern flag was adopted in 1962.
Most of the countries adopted their current flags in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a few in the 21st century. Some countries such as Mauritania, Malawi, South Sudan, and Libya, have some of the newest national flags. Although the original flag of Mauritania was adopted in 1959, the current flag was adopted on August 15, 2017, following a successful referendum on August 5, 2017. The change of flag design saw the introduction of red strips at the top and bottom of the old flag.
The original flag of Malawi was adopted in 1964 after independence and used until July 29, 2010, when the design of the flag was changed to a red-black-green band with full sun in the middle. However, the flag was only used for two years and changed on May 28, 2012, to the current black-red-green with a rising sun which was actually the original flag adopted at independence.
South Sudan, the newest country in Africa, adopted its current flag on July 9, 2011. However, the flag was unofficially adopted in 2005. The flag resembles that of Kenya and Somali with black, red, and green bands separated by white bands (same as Kenyan flag), in addition to a Chevron on the hoist side. The current flag of Libya was first adopted in 1951. After a series of events which led to the country changing its flag several times, the flag was restored on February 17, 2011.