13 November 2010

The Dannebrog

There is a lovely legend about the Danish flag, or Dannebrog, meaning “red cloth,” that states that it fell from heaven during a battle in Estonia on June 15, 1219. It was picked up by the Danish Bishop Anders, and the Estonians, seeing this as a sign from God and realizing that the fight was lost, surrendered and promptly converted to Christianity.

In reality the flag was the banner of the German order of knights known as they Knights of Saint John, later the Knights of Malta, which tore itself loose during the battle and landed among its Danish contingent. To celebrate the victory King Valdemar adopted the flag as the symbol of the Danish army and it was later adopted as the national flag of Denmark. The event is still celebrated today and on June 15, Valdemar’s Day, the flag is flown across the country. The Dannebrog also shares the distinction with the British Union Jack, the Stars and Stripes, and the Tricolore, of being one of the few national flags to have its own name.

Excerpt from “A quick guide to customs and etiquette: Denmark.

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