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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

Demonstrate Your Vexillological Prowess! U.S. State Flag 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 States Edition Data Extremes

People like knowing how things compare. They want to know who was first/last, who has the most/least of something, what is the highest/lowest or biggest/smallest, etc. Comparisons can be interesting trivia, but they can also help us put information in context.

CultureGrams makes it easy to discover comparative statistical information through our data tables, whether it’s our standard tables or through the customized data tables you can create for yourself. Take the States Edition, for example. Do you want to know the first/last state to be admitted to the Union? Would you like to find out which states have the largest/smallest populations or which are most/least densely populated? What about the states with the highest/lowest percentages of foreign-born residents, females, or high school graduates? We’ve compiled a list of such questions that could be used as a quiz or a research assignment. For answers to the questions and much more, check out our States Edition Graphs and Tables page (we’ll also include the answers in the Comments area of this post).

States Edition Graphs and Tables Page via ProQuest CultureGrams

  1. Which was the first state to be added to the Union?
  2. Which was the last state to be added to the Union?
  3. Which is the largest state in terms of total area?
  4. Which is the smallest state in terms of total area?
  5. Which state has the largest population?
  6. Which state has the smallest population?
  7. Which is the most densely populated state?
  8. Which is the least densely populated state?
  9. Which state grew the fastest between 2010 and 2015?
  10. Which state grew the slowest between 2010 and 2015?
  11. Which state has the highest percentage of females?
  12. Which state has the lowest percentage of females?
  13. Which state has the highest percentage of foreign-born residents?
  14. Which state has the lowest percentage of foreign-born residents?
  15. Which state has the highest percentage of people under 18 years old?
  16. Which state has the lowest percentage of people under 18 years old?
  17. Which state has the highest percentage of graduates from high school?
  18. Which state has the lowest percentage of graduate from high school?
  19. Which state has the highest median household income?
  20. Which state has the lowest median household income?
  21. Which state has the highest average travel time to work?
  22. Which state has the lowest average travel time to work?

Let us know how you do. And are you surprised by any of the answers to these questions?

CultureGrams: International Women’s Day (March 8)

Women in Kenya (photo via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 (this Wednesday) around the world. Learn how it’s observed in various countries from CultureGrams:

  • Burkina Faso: On International Women’s Day, official celebrations are held in cities. Many Burkinabè, especially women, dress up in a fabric designed each year for the event. People also celebrate by going to bars to drink, eat, and dance.
  • Kyrgyzstan: On International Women’s Day, men give gifts to the women in their lives, including grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, classmates, co-workers, and wives or girlfriends.
  • Mauritania: International Women’s Day is celebrated in each regional capital with a fair at which women’s cooperatives from the surrounding area display and sell their goods. A ceremony is held and includes speeches by government leaders. Many development organizations present awareness campaigns.
  • Ukraine: On International Women’s Day, everyone gets the day off work. Women receive flowers and gifts, as well as household help from their husbands. Special attention is paid to mothers, and girls are congratulated as future women.
  • Madagascar: International Women’s Day is celebrated across Madagascar, even in small villages. The day’s events typically include a gathering at the mayor’s office, where women’s groups perform traditional dances for the town’s officials in return for a small monetary gift. Women in the northeastern part of the island commonly wear matching blouses and lamba (long cotton wraps). They often make noise using whistles and condensed-milk cans fashioned into rattles.

Women in Voloina, Madagascar, celebrate International Women’s Day (photo via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

Learn more about holidays around the world from the Holidays section of World and Kids edition CultureGrams reports!

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.

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