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Erfalasorput and Our National Day

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June 21 is our national day, so we are flying our flag, Erfalasorput, all over the country

The story of Erfalasorput is the result of a democratic process that was negotiated and voted through after long deliberations. Erfalasorput means “Our Flag.”

The Road to Our Own Flag
Back in 1973, while Greenland was still a county in the Danish realm, a process was initiated to find an independent Greenlandic flag. The vast majority of the original bids were based on the common Nordic flag characteristic: the cross. When the Greenlandic newspaper Atuagagdliutit (AG) published 11 proposals for a new flag in 1974, the cross was included in 10 proposals.

At that time, however, no agreement was reached on a new national symbol, and only after the introduction of the Home Rule in 1979 was the process resumed. The Home Rule Government organized an open flag competition in 1980, and as many as 555 proposals were put on the table. However, the many suggestions were swept off the table again.

New Suggestions
The members of the Home Rule Government could not agree on the final version, and, instead, several artists were invited to come up with new proposals for the flag. It was on this occasion that Thue Christiansen came up with his winning bid for a national flag. Fourteen members of the Greenland Parliament voted for Erfalasorput, while eleven preferred a cross flag with green and white colors. The result was that Thue Christiansen’s flag rose to the top of the flagpoles for the first time on June 21, 1985, six years after introducing the Home Rule Government.

The symbols of the flag

Erfalasorput consists of a red and white divided bottom, interrupted by a two-part circle in opposite colors. The colors symbolize a clear connection to Denmark. The fact that the flag does not have a cross in the same way as the Danish flag, Dannebrog, and the other Nordic flags clearly shows that the country has a degree of political freedom as well as a close connection to the other Inuit people around the pole.

The circle also refers to sunrise over the ice sheet, just as Greenland’s fjords are represented by the red part of the circle, while the large red field in the flag characterizes the sea.
The beautiful flag thus testifies to equal parts independent cultural identity and historical-traditional relations and the arrival of ice, snow, and midsummer light and heat.

The Father of the Flag: Thue Christiansen

Thue Hans Lynge Christiansen was born in 1940 and has been a prominent figure in Greenland’s modern history. He has been a teacher, painter, graphic artist, and politician, and in 1979 when Greenland was given Home Rule, Thue Christiansen himself was elected a member of the national government and became Minister of Culture and Education. He resigned in 1983. Today, Thue Christiansen lives in Hou in North Denmark, and, in 1997, he was presented with the Danish Order of the Dannebrog and, in 2002, received the Greenland Culture Prize in gold.

National Day: June 21

Greenland’s National Day was originally scheduled for May 1, the same day as International Workers’ Day. This coincidence was a bit impractical, and moreover, it is also reasonably cold to celebrate something outdoors in Greenland in early May. Thus, June 21 was introduced as the national day by the Home Rule in 1983, and it was on this date, Greenland in 2009 gained autonomy. In addition, June 21 is the summer solstice and thus the longest and brightest day of the year.

In Greenland, we celebrate National Day with festivities in all towns and villages. In each place, we put together a program that offers common singing in the morning, speeches, flag raising, worship, coffee and tea, and local entertainment in the form of music, folk dancing, demonstration of kayaking skills, and such. In many towns, museums and culture houses mark the national day with special events or exhibitions. At the same time, our nationwide TV channel, KNR, broadcasts comprehensive reports from various towns and villages.

This article is a revised version of Hans Wendelboe Bøcher’s original article.