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According to the legend, Dannebrog fell down from the sky on June 15, 1219 to the Danish King Valdemar II during his crusade to Estonia. With the flag in hand, the King won the battle at Lyndanise near Reval (Tallinn). The flag was given to him as a divine approval. This is the explanation Danes like to give in order to tell the origin of the Danish national flag.

If the legend of how Dannebrog became the Danish national flag were true, it would make it the World's oldest national flag still in use. The first factual proof that Dannebrog was used to represent the king of the Danes can be seen as soon as in the fourteenth century as it was incorporated in the coat of arms of King Valdemar III.

The word Dannebrog literally means the cloth of the Danes. 

Up to 1854 the Dannebrog was solely the flag of the Danish King and the Royal Navy. Slowly it also became the Danish symbol of the army and the mercantile marine and in 1854, private persons were allowed to use the rectangular flag.

The Dannebrog exists in various forms. The most famous and known one is the rectangular form which is a simple white cross on a bright red background. The exact shade of the red color of the background of the rectangular flag has never been established, but rest assured that the Danes will know when it's right or wrong!

The Dannebrog also exists in a swallow-tailed version. The form has been known since the fifteenth century and it also represented the King and the Navy. The shade of red of the swallow-tailed Dannebrog is a deeper red than the one used on the rectangular version. Today, this version of the flag belongs to the state of Denmark, the Royal House and the Navy. Private persons must have a special permission to fly the swallow-tailed Dannebrog.

The swallow-tailed Dannebrog of the Queen of Denmark is very recognisable, as it has the royal coat of arms in the central field. The other members of the Royal Family do also have their own versions. These flags are used when those concerned are in residence. Other versions are made as special standards for e.g. the Minister of Defence, and they have an emblem in the top-inner red square of the flag.

To the above two versions of the Dannebrog, a smaller sister is found in the form of a pennant. The exact size of a pennant is nowhere to be found as the flagmakers make them as they have always made them!

The Danish people love their flag and are very proud to use it whenever it is possible, this being as a tiny paper version for the Christmas tree or as facial make-up at a football match.

There are a few rules to follow when it comes to the display of Dannebrog. The two big versions - the rectangular and the swallow-tail - are flown on special occasions and are hoisted at sunrise (usually 8 o'clock) and lowered at sunset. To fly Dannebrog by night is considered an offense and is punishable by law. The flag must never touch the ground. The pennant (this version is never called Dannebrog) can be used 24 hours and is only lowered when Dannebrog is hoisted.

When Do the Danes Hoist Dannebrog?

The official days on which the flags are flown are divided into four categories: religious holidays, national days, birthdays in the Royal Family and military flag-flying days. Only the first three categories are used by the Danish public.

In addition, Dannebrog is hoisted on the special days of Danish families: birthdays, weddings....

Religious Holidays
New Year's Day

Good Friday - The flag is at half staff the whole day

Easter Day

Ascension Day

Whit Sunday

Christmas Day

National Days
April 9  Occupation of Denmark 1940 - The flag is at half staff till noon and then at full

May 5  Liberation of Denmark 1945

June 5  Constitution Day

June 15  Valdemar Day - The "birthday" of the flag

Birthdays in the Royal Family
April 16  Queen Margrethe II

April 29  Princess Benedikte

May 26  Crown Prince Frederik

June 7  Prince Joachim

June 11  Prince Henrik

June 30  Princess Alexandra

Military Flag-flying Days
February 2 Battle of Mysunde 1864

February 11 Storm of Copenhagen 1659

April 2  Battle of Reden 1801

April 18  Battle at Dybbøl 1864

May 9  Battle at Helgoland 1864

July 6  Battle at Fredericia 1849

July 25  Battle at Isted 1850

October 4  Storm of Frederiksstad 1850

Edited November 12, 2004

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