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Identifying Patterns: Why Do Some Flags Look Similar?

Flag map of the world

Flag map of the world [via Wikimedia Commons]

If you look at any image gallery of the flags of the world (such as the one provided by CultureGrams), you’ll notice that while there are a wide variety of colors and symbols on the flags, there are also some obvious similarities, especially among flags from the same region. These similarities in flag design often reflect a common cultural, political, or religious heritage among the countries with those flags.

Help Students Understand 6 Common Patterns and Themes in World Flags
Use the CultureGrams Flag Gallery to get students started exploring similarities among the flags of the world. Can your students spot any patterns or themes in world flags? What do they think the reasons are for those similarities? (Tip: If students need help understanding the meaning behind the colors and symbols of world flags, check out the helpful explanation on each CultureGrams World and Kids country landing page.)

While there are many patterns to be found in world flags, here’s a quick overview of six common themes:

  1. The Union Jack. The Union Jack is the name of the flag of the United Kingdom, and variations of the Union Jack appear on the flags of some countries and territories that were formerly (or are currently) associated with the United Kingdom. These include Australia, Fiji, Montserrat, New Zealand, Tuvalu, and Niue.
  2. A star and the color red. Many current communist countries include a star/s and the color red on their flags. The star/s typically represent ideas associated with communism or socialism, and the color red stands for revolution. Countries whose flags incorporate this symbolism include China, North Korea, and Vietnam.
  3. The star and crescent. The star and crescent became common during the Ottoman Empire and are now considered traditional symbols of Islam. Flags that use these symbols include those of Algeria, Azerbaijan, Comoros, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives (crescent only), Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  4. The Pan-Arab colors. The Pan-Arab colors are green, red, black, and white. These colors first came from the 1916 flag of the Arab Revolt. A subset of the Pan-Arab colors are the Arab Liberation colors (red, white, and black, with green less prominent), which came into use in the 1950s. Flags with Pan-Arab colors are those of Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan.
  5. The Pan-African colors. There are two sets of Pan-African colors: (1) red, green, and gold, based on the Ethiopian flag, and (2) red, black, and green, based on the 1920 Pan-African flag. Countries may incorporate one or both sets of Pan-African colors into their flags. Not all countries that use the Pan-African colors in their flags are in Africa; some are countries elsewhere with strong African heritage. Flags with Pan-African colors include those of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Benin, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and Guyana.
  6. The Pan-Slavic colors. The Pan-Slavic colors are red, white, and blue. The colors were decided on at the 1848 Prague Slavic Congress and were based on the colors of the Russian flag. Countries whose flags use the Pan-Slavic colors are Croatia, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

What themes and patterns did your students find in the flags? Did they notice the six mentioned above? Did they find others? Let us know on Twitter how your students did by tweeting us at @CultureGrams!

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Passover 2017: Chag Sameach!

Jews Celebrating Passover. Lubok, XIXth century (image 1850), via Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish communities around the world are currently observing Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew)–one of the most important events in the Jewish calendar. So wish your Jewish friends chag sameach (happy festival)! Passover is a week-long celebration that takes place each year in early Spring, this year taking place between April 10-18th. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from ancient Egypt and God’s sparing or “passing over” Jewish homes during the final plague in Egypt. According to the Biblical story, the Israelites had to leave Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise, taking with them only unleavened bread. As a reminder of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt, Jews today refrain from eating anything containing leaven (chametz) during Passover, eating unleavened products such as matzah (a type of flatbread) instead. Jews also eat matzah with bitter herbs such as horseradish, in remembrance of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Learn about Passover traditions in the CultureGrams Israel report.

Test your knowledge of Judaism with this quiz

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Marshall Islands

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

Flag of the Marshall Islands via CultureGrams

The new Marshall Islands report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about the Marshall Islands:

  • The average elevation of each island is just 7 feet (2 meters) above sea level.
  • Marshallese society is traditionally matrilineal (based on the mother’s family line), and land is passed down from one generation to the next through the mother’s line.
  • Elugelab is an extinct island that was used as a hydrogen bomb test site by the United States military and was blown up in 1954. The blast left behind a crater more than a mile wide and 165 feet (50 meters) deep.
  • Similar to the Hawaiian word aloha, the Marshallese word yokwe means “hello,” “good-bye,” and “love.”

Read about the the Marshallese culture of sharing and caring for one another, life as a kid, and favorite sports, all in this colorful new report.

Virtual Sistine Chapel Tour

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Italy—in addition to the daily, ahem, twice-daily gelato runs—was actually not part of Italy at all. It was the sovereign state of Vatican City (or the Holy See). I have been interested in the world’s smallest independent nation since helping to create the World Edition CultureGrams report on it (we have a Kids report too!).

It did not disappoint. Located in the heart of bustling Rome, The Vatican feels like a different country once you’re inside its walls. It’s still very busy, of course, as one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but the presence of Swiss Guards (a small security force comprised of Catholic Swiss men), the magnitude of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the concentration of masterpieces in such a small area make the Vatican a truly unique place.

A Swiss Guard stands at his post. Photo by Aaron Thompson.

The culmination of any tourist’s visit to the Vatican is, of course, the Sistine Chapel. And though you’re allowed to take all the photos you want in the huge complex of museums you must (get to) pass through on the way to Michelangelo’s crowning work, once you enter the chapel you are greeted with several Italian guards booming out the words “No foto! No foto!”  I have to admit I didn’t fully comply with the rule, though no one yelled at me for looking down in a sea of people looking up.

The floor of the Sistine Chapel. Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

As cool as it was to see in person, you can actually get a much better view of it on an official virtual tour. In addition to being able to see the chapel completely empty (in person it’s shoulder-to-shoulder), you can zoom in on different pieces of the artwork or just contemplate it in silence, without anyone yelling at you.

And in case you thought I was kidding about the gelato . . .

Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

CultureGrams: New Interviews for Afghanistan and Comoros!

Blue Mosque – Shrine of Hazrat Ali, by Lukaszcom, via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve recently added interviews from two Afghan women to the Afghanistan country report. Hear first-hand what life is like in Afghanistan for Farah and Zohal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve also added interviews to the Comoros report! Take a look at them to get a feel for life in different areas in the Comoros Islands among different age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.Fatima, female, age 29

Patrice, male, age 43

Nourou, female, age 9

 

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Togo

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

Flag of Togo via CultureGrams

The new Togo report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about the Togo:

  • Togo is believed to have been named after a town on the shore of Lake Togo. The name comes from the Ewe words to (water) and go (shore).
  • Most homes in Togo do not have running water, so fetching water is a common daily chore for children.
  • Among the Ewe, babies are named after the day of the week they are born but are often given a personal first name as well.
  • To show respect, young people kneel when greeting an elder.

Read about the annual Evala festival, life as a kid, and traditional foods, all in this colorful new report.

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: U.S. Virgin Islands

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

Flag of the U.S. Virgin Islands via CultureGrams

The new U.S. Virgin Islands report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about the U.S. Virgin Islands:

  • The U.S. Virgin Islands is the only location in the United States where people drive on the left side of the road.
  • There is an underwater national park in Trunk Bay, off the coast of Saint John. It is one of the best places to snorkel in the Caribbean and is marked by underwater signs.
  • Famous impressionist painter Camille Pissarro was born in Saint Thomas.
  • The islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas each have a nickname. They are known as Twin City (Saint Croix), Love City (Saint John), and Rock City (Saint Thomas).

Read about the Carnival celebration, life as a kid, and traditional foods, all in this colorful new report.

CultureGrams Reviewers Needed!

A crowd of youngsters gather to watch a break-dance competition in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Salym Fayad.

If you’re familiar with CultureGrams, you know that one of the things that makes our product stand out is the “native perspective” of much of the information in our country, state, and province reports. CultureGrams goes beyond statistics to explore not only the history of a place, but also the culture and day-to-day lives of residents of that location, including topics like dating and marriage rituals, eating habits, life as a kid, and much more.

CultureGrams is able to capture this unique perspective because we work with native reviewers and other country experts to portray what life is really like for people living in the locations covered by our reports.

For instance, did you know that in Sierra Leone, a baby’s umbilical cord is placed under a new tree before it is planted? Or that in Kazakhstan, newlyweds visit local landmarks after the wedding ceremony? This is the type of unique information CultureGrams can provide its customers because of the perspectives native reviewers share with us.

Because we’re continually updating, reviewing, and expanding our country, state, and province reports, we’re always looking for reviewers to help us make sure the reports and other features (like photos and recipes) are up to date with the latest and most accurate information.

If you’re a native or country expert for any of the places below, and are interested helping us review our reports, please visit our website to learn more about the project and qualifications and fill out an application.

Countries

Armenia Ghana Mali Slovakia  West Bank and Gaza
Bangladesh Greece Mauritania Slovenia  Yemen
Belarus Haiti Mexico South Sudan  
Cape Verde Iran Moldova Sri Lanka  
Costa Rica Italy Mongolia Suriname  
Croatia Jamaica Norway  Togo  
Dominican Republic Kenya Pakistan  Tonga  
Ethiopia Madagascar Romania Tunisia  
 Fiji Malawi Serbia UAE  

 

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Alaska Kansas New Mexico Northwest Territories (Canadian territory)
Idaho Nebraska Oklahoma  
Minnesota Missouri South Dakota  

 

CultureGrams: Learn about St. Dévote’s Day, January 27

A religious parade passes through the Royal Palace Square in Monte Carlo during the annual celebration for Saint Dévote. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

CultureGrams is a great way to learn about holidays around the world. Each World and Kids edition report has a Holidays section that discusses the traditions and celebrations associated with a country’s most popular holidays. Not only can learning about a country’s holidays be fun, but it’s also an engaging way to learn about a country’s culture and gain insight into what is important to the people who celebrate the holidays.

Some holidays celebrated in other countries may sound familiar, but others may be new to you. For example, are you familiar with St. Dévote’s Day, celebrated in Monaco on 27 January? That’s this Friday! From the World Edition Monaco report Holidays section, we learn:

On 27 January, Monégasques honor St. Dévote, the patron saint of the principality. Dévote was persecuted and martyred for her faith in the fourth century. Her body was eventually buried in Monaco, and several miracles were associated with Dévote. Years later, a group of thieves tried to steal and sell Dévote’s bones, but Monégasque sailors retrieved the bones and set fire to the thieves’ boats. On this holiday, the prince or a member of the royal family sets fire to an old boat in the port to commemorate the rescue of the bones.

Not only can you read about St. Dévote’s Day on CultureGrams, but you can also find photos of the celebration in our Photo Gallery so you can see what the celebration is like:

On the Feast of Saint Dévote, relics are carried in a procession around Monaco. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

 

On the eve of the Feast of Saint Dévote, Monégasques prepare to burn a boat to commemorate the prevented theft of Dévote relics. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

Find more holidays celebrated around the world in CultureGrams World and Kids editions!

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Mauritius

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

The new Mauritius report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Mauritius:

  • The dodo—a flightless bird native to Mauritius—became extinct in the 17th century. The dodo only existed in Mauritius.
  • Mauritius Island is around 8 million years old, which is rather young in geological time.
  • Several different types of giant tortoise used to live in Mauritius but have now become extinct.
  • Mauritian ships are sometimes attacked by modern-day pirates in the Indian Ocean; Mauritius began holding court trials for pirates in 2013.

Read about Mauritian séga music and explore the fascinating history of Mauritius in this new report.

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