The blue and white flag of Greece is easily one of the most recognizable in the world. Each design element of the iconic flag represents a piece of Greece’s storied history and tradition.
The official flag of Greece, officially adopted on December 22, 1978, has an equal-length white cross on a blue square in the upper left corner. The remaining portion is dedicated to nine blue and white alternating horizontal stripes. Blue is always the color of the top and bottom stripes. The proportion of the flag’s height to width is a ratio of 2:3.
The flag’s nine stripes are said to represent the number of syllables in the term “Eleutheria H Thanatos”, which translates to “Freedom or Death”. This was the rallying cry of the troops fighting for freedom from occupation of the Ottoman Empire.
The white cross is the symbol of the Greek Orthodox Church, the official religion of Greece. The color blue refers to the sea, which surrounds the Greek archipelago and is the driving force of its economy. The color white represents purity and the waves of the ocean.
There are many little known facts and alternate meanings of the Greek flag. Unlike the flags of most countries, Greece does not mandate an official shade of blue to be used on its flag. Any shade of blue is acceptable, and the differences can range from a light baby blue to a darker navy blue shade. Most flags displayed lean more toward a shade of royal blue. Prior to 1978, the flag had a diagonal cross in the upper left corner. Like the United States uses the nickname “the red, white and blue” for its flag, Greeks often refer to their flag as the “Galanolefci”, or “the blue and white”.
Theories from Greek mythology contend that the nine stripes represent the myth of the Nine Muses, and that the colors represent the Greek goddess Aphrodite rising from the sea. Other theories explaining the meaning of the colors and design elements include associations with the shield of Achilles, the army banners of Alexander the Great, the goddess Athena, and coats of arms used by royal families. Greek Flag Day is October 27 of each year.