Friday is Flag Day, which commemorates the day in 1777 when the United States flag was adopted for the first time.
For more than 200 years, the “Stars and Stripes” has flown to demonstrate American strength and unity. The pride and inspiration citizens take from the flag is striking to anyone visiting the U.S. for the first time. To me, it is one of the most impressive, endearing aspects of this great nation that is now my home.
According to www.usa-flag-site.org, the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, resolved that “the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several acts to update the flag’s layout to include the addition of new stars to represent the admission of new states, the last two being Alaska and Hawaii, which were admitted to the Union in 1959.
Today’s flag, which I swore allegiance to when I was granted U.S. citizenship last fall, consists of 13 horizontal stripes. Seven of those are red and alternate with six white ones representing the original 13 colonies, including Georgia, and 50 stars representing the Union’s current fifty states.
The flag’s colors also are symbolic. Red represents hardiness and valor, white represents purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
The Stars and Stripes has an iconic symbolism across the world. From proud moments in history, including its proud raising at Iwo Jima in 1945 towards the end of World War II and its planting on the moon in 1969, the flag is inextricably bound to American independence, pride and achievement.
We do not have an equivalent flag day for the Union Jack, the British flag, in the land of my birth. However, the individual flags of Wales, Ireland and Scotland are flown on their national holidays — St. David’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and St. Andrew’s Day, respectively.
In England, the St. George’s flag, with its red cross on a white background, is traditionally flown on St George’s Day, but this day is not celebrated as an English public holiday. Unfortunately, the flag of St George also has been semi-hijacked by extreme right-wing racists in England, which makes many English people uncomfortable.
The history of the Union Flag of the British Isles — more commonly called the Union Jack — also is interesting. According to www.royal.gov.uk, the flag was developed over centuries to combine three heraldic crosses. When Scotland united with England and Wales in 1606, the white cross of St. Andrew against a blue background was added to the red cross of St. George.
As the Principality of Wales had been absorbed into English territory many centuries earlier, the dragon of St. David was ignored in the flag design. In 1801, when Ireland became part of the United Kingdom (at least until 1921, when only Northern Ireland remained), the diagonal red cross of St. Patrick on a white background was added to make the striking Union Jack that is flown to this day.
There seem to be resurgences in British pride and patriotism since I left in 2009, with more prominence given to the flying of the Union Jack in recent years. In my opinion, this has been fuelled by the successful London Olympics, the queen’s golden jubilee and the royal wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate.
Of course, the arrival of their baby, who will be the new British heir to the throne and widely is predicted to be a girl called Alexandra, no doubt will further British patriotic fever and flag-waving.
Generally speaking, though, Americans seem to be far more patriotic than the vast majority of British people. The flying of the U.S. flag — all year round, not just on June 14 and July 4 — always is an uplifting sight. This summer will be my first as a naturalized American citizen, so these dates are especially meaningful to me. We will fly the Stars and Stripes with pride.
God bless America, and enjoy Flag Day!
Fracnis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lesleyfrancispr.com.