My first glaring encounter with the Danish flag happened on the first birthday card I received from Michael’s parents; I received an envelope covered in Danish flag stickers. I was taken aback, nigh offended. Why weren’t they respecting who I was and where I was coming from? Why weren’t they accepting my identity, and instead imposing their own onto me. The Danish flag has nothing to do with me, so why is it on MY card?
The Danish Flag
The Danish flag also known as the Dannebrog, consists of a white Scandinavian cross on a red background. The legend goes that the Danish flag fell from heaven during a battle in Tallinn on the 15th of June 1219. No historical records support this legend, though were the legend to be true the Dannebrog would be the oldest state flag still in use by an independent state.
It is customary that the flag is not suppose to touch the ground and should be taken down before sunset. There are also laws that you cannot fly another flag in Denmark besides the Dannebrog, unless the Dannebrog flies on a nearby pole at the same height (or higher), or if on the same pole, the Danish flag needs to be positioned on top.
Why its Widespread Use?
Of course, the feelings that I felt on receiving my first Danish birthday card are not what my Danish in-laws were aiming to project. As this article states, to Danes the flag is an empty symbol to which they can assign whatever attribute they would like. As Inge Adriansen is quoted as saying in that article, while the flag abroad is seen as a symbol of nationalism, in Denmark it is also seen as a symbol that the people own. These attributes are typically ones relating to celebrations, and in fact flags are used everywhere: at birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, farewells… supermarket discounts? You name the celebration, the Danes will bring the flags!
I have been slowly learning to accept this way that flags are used in Denmark. The fact that Michael has learnt to moderate flag usage around me helps. His parents? This year’s birthday card still had flags!