World Facts

What Do the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of Iceland Mean?

Iceland's flag was adopted on June 17, 1944.

A Brief History of Iceland

Iceland is an island nation located in the North Atlantic Ocean. This volcanically active country is well known for its surreal landscapes and peace-loving people. According to ancient manuscripts, human settlement in Iceland dates back as early as 874 AD. A chieftain from Norway was the first to settle the island, and gradually more and more people from nearby Scandinavia started arriving to Iceland. In the 13th century, Iceland came under the rule of Norway, and later Danish rule as part of the Kalmar Union. Due to Iceland's relative isolation in the ocean, it existed for centuries as a semi-colony of the Dutch. The state gained independence from the Dutch in 1918 and began to emerge as an independent nation, and Iceland became a republic in 1944. For most of the 20th century, Iceland was one of the continent’s poorest nations, but emerged as one of the wealthiest countries in the world following World War II.

History of the Flag of Iceland

The national flag of modern Iceland was officially adopted by law when the country became an independent republic on June 17, 1944. However, this was not the first time a flag was used to represent the region. In 1897, a flag with a deep blue background and a white cross was displayed in a parade as Iceland’s first national flag. The design of the current flag incorporates a red cross within the white cross used in the original flag, and was introduced in 1915. The newly designed flag served as the national flag when Iceland gained independence from Danish rule in 1918.

Design of Iceland’s National Flag

The flag of Iceland features a blue field with a red Nordic cross that has white edges and extends to the edges of the flag. The vertical part of the cross is located towards the hoist side of the flag.

Symbolism of the National Flag of Iceland

According to popular belief, the blue color of the flag represents the color of the mountains when viewed from the coast. The white color symbolizes the ice and snow that covers most of Iceland throughout the year. The red color is believed to represent the volcanoes of the island nation. The cross featured on the flag is a Christian symbol.

Flag Days in Iceland

Laws in Iceland list certain days as nationally sanctioned flag days, on which all state buildings must raise the flag. On these days, with the exception of Good Friday, the flag must be fully drawn. On Good Friday, the flag is to be drawn at half-mast. Some flag days of Iceland include Easter, New Year’s Day, 1 May, Icelandic National Day, Icelandic Language Day, Christmas day, and Pentecost.

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