Canadians debated furiously before adopting the red maple leaf in 1965, an ensign pointedly free of colonial images. It has become one of the most recognizable flags in the world, due to its bright coloring, simple shapes and the fact Canadians love to slap them on everything from clothing to suitcases when traveling.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Its double triangles symbolize the peaks of the Himalayas. The sun and moon represent calm and resolve -- traits needed to tolerate the Everest-sized egos of those flag-planting foreign mountaineers.
PEMBA DORJE SHERPA/AFP/Getty Images
The blue stripes conjure the cobalt summer skies and azure seas that annually lure millions of vacationers; the white recalls spotless coastal buildings dotting its beautiful coastline.
The beast on Bhutan's flag is Druk, a thunder dragon of Bhutanese Buddhist mythology. The dragon is said to symbolize the origins of religious teachings on which Bhutan was founded.
Triston Yeo/Getty Images
United States —
The modern incarnation of Betsy Ross's purported creation is an oft-imitated design of which Americans are rightly proud. So proud in fact, it's one of the only flags to have a National Anthem ("The Star-spangled Banner") written specifically about it.
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
Given Brazil's skills on the pitch, you might think its flag symbolizes a blue soccer ball being booted into space from a grassy stadium. It doesn't. The colors clash, the ball of stars looks messy. But somehow, it works.
CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images
Shaking off Dutch colonial invaders, Indonesian freedom fighters created their flag by tearing the blue strip off a Dutch tricolor. Another version claims the colors are derived from the 14th century Majapahit Empire.
Ed Wray/Getty Images
Adopted in 1985, Greenland's flag is an exercise in classically minimalist Scandinavian design. From 555 submitted designs, a committee chose a red and white split circle on a contrasting background.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Mozambique's flag features a gun! Yes, there's a book, symbolizing education,and a hoe for agriculture, but there's also an AK-47 symbolizing the country's bloody struggle for independence.
MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images
Panama's flag is widely displayed on ships using the country's emblem as a flag of convenience. The country also has an alternate version, making it one of the few nations to have more than one national pennant.
MAURO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images
United Kingdom —
The Union Flag has long lived a double life, serving as national emblem and erstwhile fashion icon. It combines the blue and white saltire of Scotland's patron Saint Andrew, the red cross on white of England's Saint George and red diagonal cross of Ireland's Saint Patrick.