Just like a waving flag

In general, Canadians wave our flag much less frequently than Americans. In a typical American city or town you can see at least 5 flags from any given vantage point, while here the only place you are guaranteed to see a flag is outside a government building. Except at the cottage. There is an unwritten rule that no cottage is complete without a flag. I admit to having succumbed to cottage culture peer pressure and have purchased 2 flags to date. I have no idea why flags are mandatory wherever there is a dock, but that doesn’t stop me from guessing.

1. There is a long tradition of using a flag to stake a claim of ownership. This is particularly important on our island, which is a frequent target of alien invasion from Provincial park canoes that confuse our wild and rocky shoreline with an uninhabited swath of Canadian shield. In this case the flag is situated too far from the scene of the crimes to make a difference. Note to self: install more flags. And maybe a ‘beware of sharks’ sign.

2. We are proud of our wilderness and want to make sure that anyone from any other country knows ours is ours. Back off and get your own lake – don’t touch my water.

3. It’s a guide post. But not really – directions like ‘you’ll see a flag pole on the shore’ are not very helpful on my lake. But maybe instead it acts as a decoy – good luck finding my cottage in the sea of red and white that circles the bay. Another good thing about an island cottage: no one can drop in unexpectedly.

4. It’s a signal that someone is home, kind of like the Queen’s banner at Buckingham Palace. One of the first things when opening up the cottage is to raise the flag (which may go more slowly than planned because you first have to remember where you put the flag away) and the last is to take it down some time in November – a very solemn task that I will stop talking about right now.

5. A national flag is still a novelty. All of you countries who have had your extremely unoriginal flags (there are no less than 51 countries with flags displaying 3 horizontal stripes) may have had them longer than us (except maybe the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is probably neither democratic nor a republic). I am unfortunately old enough to remember the great flag debate that resulted in our not-at-all-boring-thank-you-very-much flag that made its first public appearance in 1965. There were three finalists in the competition, two of which had blue as well as red and white in the mix. Please note that the winning entry has no horizontal stripes. The red and white are pleasing to the eye and the maple leaf in the middle is so unique and distinctive that non-Canadians still co-opt it when travelling in Europe. I rest my case.

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