The red, white and green flag with a yellow star is the national flag of Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s flag has powerful symbolism rooted in Ethiopia’s long and proud history as one of the only African nations to successfully resist colonization.
History of the Ethiopian Flag
The current flag of Ethiopia was adopted on February 6, 1996. However, Ethiopia’s use of the green, yellow and red tricolor dates back to the 19th century.
In 1897, Ethiopia’s Emperor Menelik II conquered territories occupied by Italian colonists and subsequently established the colors red, yellow and green as the new Ethiopian national flag. The red stood for power and faith, the yellow represented church, peace, natural wealth and love, and the green symbolized the land and hope.
In the early 20th century under Emperor Haile Selassie, the tricolored flag was updated with the addition of the Lion of Judah emblem at the flag’s center. The lion represented the lineage supposedly descended from the Biblical King Solomon and Queen of Sheba, connecting the Ethiopian monarchy and people to the Israelite tribe of Judah.
During the Italian occupation from 1936-1941, Ethiopia’s flag was abolished and replaced with the Italian colonial flag. After World War II and Italy’s defeat, Haile Selassie was restored to power and the previous flag with the Lion of Judah was reinstated.
In 1974, Ethiopia’s monarchy was overthrown in a communist revolution known as the Ethiopian Revolution. Under the new regime called the Derg, known for its brutality and corruption, the emblem at the flag’s center was changed from the imperial Lion of Judah to a yellow five-pointed star.
This star symbolized the unity of Ethiopia’s many ethnic groups and the eternal struggle against colonization. When the Derg regime finally collapsed in 1987, the flag with the yellow star remained, representing national unity and resistance in the face of adversity.
In 1996 under the new constitution, the dimensions and colors of the current Ethiopian flag were re-established officially. Today, the flag with the green, yellow and red horizontal bands with a yellow star at the center remains an iconic symbol of national identity for Ethiopians.
Meaning Behind Ethiopia’s Flag Colors
The three colors of the Ethiopian flag represent important virtues and values in Ethiopian culture:
Green – The green stands for hope, fertility and the beauty of the Ethiopian landscape. Ethiopia has lush forests and farmlands watered by the Blue Nile River. Green symbolizes vitality, growth and ENVIRONMENTALISM.
Yellow – The yellow represents PEACE, natural wealth, justice and unity between Ethiopia’s many ethnic and religious groups. Yellow also symbolizes the sun, which nourishes crops, and the gold deposits in northern Ethiopia.
Red – The red stands for power, faith and the sacrifice of patriots who fought for Ethiopian independence from colonizers. Red symbolizes the blood spilled to defend Ethiopia’s freedom and the courage to resist oppression.
Together, the green, yellow and red symbolize a commitment to build a prosperous, just and peaceful nation where all Ethiopians can thrive together. The flag is a source of pride and inspiration during times of hardship.
Meaning of the Yellow Star
At the center of the Ethiopian flag is a yellow five-pointed star. This star has powerful meaning:
– Unity – The star’s five points represent the unity of Ethiopia’s main ethnic and regional groups.
– Equality – All the star’s points are equal in length, symbolizing equality and balance between citizens.
– Progress – The star points upward, aspiring for advancement and improvement.
– Responsibility – The central star reminds leaders of their responsibility to the nation.
– Resistance – The yellow star stood defiantly against the Italian colonial flag, representing resilience.
– Diversity – The star brings together Ethiopians of all faiths and backgrounds under one shared identity.
Overall, the yellow star affirms key values like unity, equality, progress and determination that bind Ethiopians together. It adds aspirational meaning to the pan-African colors on the flag.
Ethiopian Flag Song (Unquakes Beitoch)
Ethiopia’s national flag even has its own anthem used to salute it during ceremonies. The anthem “Unquakes Beitoch” translates to “Our Flag” and was composed in 1942 by Yoftahé Negusé. The lyrics highlight the flag’s symbolic meaning:
Our flag is adorned in green, yellow and red
It restores to life those who shed their blood for you
Our flag of honor over your glorious folds
The blood of your children flows shed for your honor
The verses emphasize how the flag signifies Ethiopian patriotism and sacrifice throughout the nation’s history. The flag song continues to be performed at official functions honoring the flag. Hearing the anthem evokes a sense of national pride.
Ethiopian Flag Raising Ceremonies
The Ethiopian flag is the centerpiece of ceremonies celebrating national holidays and key dates. Important flag raising ceremonies include:
National Flag Day – Held every year on February 6th to commemorate the date Ethiopia’s current flag was adopted in 1996. Festivities include parades, cultural performances and flag raising across the country.
New Year – Called Enkutatash, the Ethiopian new year falls on September 11th. People gather dressed in traditional all-white clothing to raise the national flag and enjoy festivities.
Adwa Victory Day – On March 2nd, Ethiopians celebrate Adwa Victory over the Italian colonial army in 1896. The flag is held high to commemorate Ethiopia’s independence.
Patriots Victory Day – May 5th commemorates the end of Italy’s brief occupation during World War II in 1941. Flag raising ceremonies give thanks for the country’s liberation.
Through these ceremonies, the Ethiopian flag continues to instill national pride and represents “a banner of independence in Africa.”
Ethiopian Flag Etiquette
The Ethiopian flag demands great reverence and should be treated with proper respect:
– The flag should not touch the ground or be used as a covering or drape.
– It should be displayed upright on flag poles, not slanted or horizontal.
– The flag should not be marked/damaged or discolored over time. Damaged flags are burnt in a ceremony.
– Nothing should be pinned or sewn to the flag. Flags should be professionally manufactured.
– During a flag raising ceremony, Ethiopians stand at attention to salute the flag and may place their right hand over their heart.
– The flag should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously, not hurriedly.
– Ethiopian law establishes penalties for desecrating the flag.
Ethiopians treasure their flag as a shared national symbol. Following proper etiquette shows patriotism and pride.
Displaying the Ethiopian Flag
Ethiopians frequently display their vibrant flag on various occasions:
– Government buildings fly the national flag daily. It may be flown alone or alongside regional flags.
– During national holidays like National Flag Day, the red, green and yellow flag blankets the streets.
– Ethiopian runners wrap themselves in the flag after winning international athletics competitions.
– Private homes and businesses often raise the flag to show patriotism and national unity.
– Flag designs are incorporated into Ethiopian clothing, souvenirs and other items.
– Ethiopians also fly the flag abroad while traveling or at cultural events to celebrate their heritage.
The Ethiopian flag is proudly and prominently displayed as an enduring symbol of identity.
Controversy Over Flag Display by Ethiopian Diaspora
In the past, the Ethiopian diaspora community holding anti-government protests abroad has displayed older versions of the Ethiopian flag associated with previous regimes:
– Lion of Judah flag – Used until 1974, seen as symbol of the Solomonic dynasty and imperial rule.
– Green, yellow and red tricolor – Flag used from 1897 to 1936, favored by those opposing the Derg communist regime.
However, the government has accused protesters using these flags of promoting violence and division. Authorities insist all Ethiopians unite under the current national flag.
Ongoing debate continues over which flags may be displayed by the diaspora community. The flag remains a powerful political symbol.
The Ethiopian flag – with its horizontal green, yellow and red bands and a yellow star at the center – unites a diverse nation through its rich symbolism and history. The flag evokes Ethiopian national pride, resistance against colonization, and core values like unity and justice. Ethiopians treasure and respect their flag through ceremonies, song and strict etiquette. The flag remains an iconic emblem of identity, struggle and bright hopes for Ethiopia’s future.