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Lubnan, Republic of Lebanon, Al-Jumhuriyya al-Lubnaniyya

Last modified: 2006-02-11 by santiago dotor
Keywords: lebanon | lubnan | republic of lebanon | al-jumhuriyya al-lubnaniyya | cedar (green) | tree: cedar (green) |
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[Lebanon] 2:3 | stripes 1+2+1 |
by Neda Juraydini
Flag and coat-of-arms adopted 7th December 1943

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The tree is the cedar traditionally connected with Lebanon. In the 18th century the Maronite Christians used a white flag with the cedar tree, with reference to the Bible (Psalms 92:12, "the righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon"). Later, when Lebanon was under French mandate, the French tricolour was used with a cedar tree in the middle. There is a reference in Smith 1982 to the colours, "The red and white colours are those associated, respectively, with the Kayssites and Yemenites, opposing clans that divided Lebanese society between 634 and 1711".

Željko Heimer, 8 August 1996

Lebanese friends told me that red might represent martyrs' blood and white snow, holiness and eternity. Most Lebanese flags hoisted or depicted in flag charts are not correct. According to the Constitution law of 7 December 1943, the three colours of the flag must be red, white and green. Branches and trunks of the cedar are usually coloured in brown for the sake of realism — or, as some friends told me, in black to celebrate the Syrian-Lebanese 'friendship'.

Ivan Sache, 12 August 1996

The Constitution of Lebanon promulgated on 23rd May 1926 said, "Article 5: The Lebanese flag is blue, white, red with a cedar in the white part". This article was changed on 7th December 1943, "The Lebanese flag is made of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with the cedar in green in the centre of the white stripe". The cedar was and is therefore officially green. As a whole green cedar is quite strange, some flag manufacturers have certainly made it green and brown — which is unconstitutional.

Pascal Vagnat, 22 April 1999

Red symbolizes the blood of martyrs who died trying to free the country from outside forces. White is a symbol of purity of course but is here connected with the snow-capped Lebanese mountains.

Hala Abi-Saleh, 13 September 1999

The official explanation of the colours' meaning is:

  • White is snow, where cedars are, on snowy mountains, which symbolize purity.
  • Red is the blood of the victims of independance against Ottomans, French and the rest of colonizers.

Fadi Bassil, 25 February 2000

The Lebanese flag is derived from the French tricolor. The cedar was placed in the white of the French flag. When Lebanon pronounced its independence, the men who declared independence drew a color pencil sketch [image here]. They got rid of the blue and made the stripes horizontal. The vertical stripes became horizontal to move away from the French vertical design. In my recollection, the official description of the flag does not mention proportions, something I have always noted curiously. I believe that the proportions were simply taken from the French flag (2:3).

Neda Juraydini, 25 September 2000

According to Nehmé 1995, adapted in Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website [broken link]:

National Flag: White and Red with a cedar in the center. The Cedar consists of two thirds of the size [sic — 'one third of the length' probably intended] of the white band.

The Lebanese Flag consists of three horizontal bands, red, white, and red, with a green cedar in the center, i.e. the white band that amounts to the size of both red bands put together. The tip and root of the green Cedar both stretch towards the edge of the red areas. The red bands symbolize the pure blood, shed in the aim of liberation. The white band symbolizes peace. As for the green cedar, it symbolizes immortality. The Lebanese flag was raised in Bashamoun on the 21st of November 1943 at 11:20 pm. It is believed that this same flag is now kept in the National Museum, although it may have been transported to the Governmental Palace in Bteddine.

Santiago Dotor, 26 September 2000

[The above mentioned explanations of the colours in the Lebanese flag] used to be taught in schools within 'civic instruction courses' before the start of the Lebanese war. About the white snow, the meaning of lubnan (Lebanon in Arabic) is one of the multiple derivatives of white (the word comes from milk) in Arabic and in Aramean. (...) The cedar should be 1/3 of the overall width of the flag.

J.-M. Klat, 9 September 2001

I found on this personal website [broken link] some new information on the Lebanese national flag (in French):

At independence, Lebanon used as national flag the French national flag (vertically divided blue-white-red) with a cedar in the middle. On 11 November 1943, street demonstrations took place because the French authorities had jailed Presidents Bechara al Khoury and Riad al-Solh as well as other Ministers. Seven Deputees —Henri Pharaon, Maroun Kanaan, Saêb Salam, Sabri Hamadé, Rachid Beydoun, Saadi al-Mounla, and Mohamed al-Fadl— forced an entry into the Lebanese Parliament, where they decided to design a new national flag for Lebanon. The new (and current) national flag was designed by Henri Pharaon.

In 1979, the Minister of National Education, Boutros Harb, decided that 21 November should be the National Flag Day.

The Lebanese Constitution article prescribing the flag says:
Part I - Fundamental Provisions
Chapter I - The State and its Territory
Article 5 - The Lebanese flag is made of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with the cedar in green in the centre of the white stripe. The size of the white stripe is equal to the size of the two red stripes together. The cedar is in the middle, its apex touching the red upper stripe and its base touching the lower red stripe. The size of the cedar shall be equal to one third of the size of the white stripe.
Source: Vagnat and Poels 2000 [vap00].

Ivan Sache, 10 August 2002

Vertical Flag

[Vertical Flag (Lebanon)] ~5:2 | stripes 1+2+1 |
image by Neda Juraydini, 1 September 2002

For special festive occasions, such as Independence Day, a Lebanese flag which is a variant on the horizontal flag is hoisted typically along light and telephone poles. It is a long vertical flag with vertical color fields, red-white-red, with the green cedar in the center, touching both reds. Most probably it is 5:2.

Neda Juraydini, 25 September 2000

I now wonder whether the vertical flag with the cedar shifted to the top of the flag which Ivan Sache saw in a picture might actually be the bottom part of a flag with centred cedar, the top part being hidden because of the flag waving or something similar.

Santiago Dotor, 3 October 2000

After looking thoroughly at the picture, I give you the point. The top of the flag seems to be applied on a kind of wooden frame without anything to fix it, so it is probably draped over the frame. The top part might be hidden behind the visible part (as if the flag had been hung out like a bedsheet). About 1/4th of the 5:2 flag might be hidden on the picture.

Ivan Sache, 3 October 2000

Mistaken Variants

Even if the official version of the flag has red-white-red stripes in 1:2:1 proportions and a green cedar touching the red stripes, other combinations are fairly often used. The main variations are of three kinds: the stripes in 1:1:1 proportions, the colouring of the cedar (green-brown or green-black) and its size (smaller or even bigger than the white stripe). I suppose there is the possibility of a fully black cedar, as was previously used on the French tricolour, but I have never seen that on the current flag.

Željko Heimer, 12 August 1996

While watching the news on TV, I saw a variant of the Lebanese flag on a report about South Lebanon. It was red-white-red with the cedar on the white stripe, but the stripes were vertical and in something like a 1:1:4 proportion. The overall ratio was 2:3 or 3:5 (it was too brief to measure), so it was not like the vertical variant.

Thanh-Tâm Lê, 27 February 1999

It could be two flags [flown] together, one 1:1:1 and one all red.

Ole Andersen, 27 February 1999

Between independence and 1982, not many Lebanese paid attention to the words that the fighters for independence wrote in describing the flag that they hastily sketched out: a green tree in the white field that touches the two reds. They never mentioned brown. See this sketch [at the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website]. In the summer of 1982, there was a popular TV show, hosted by Riad Sharara, who put out a challenge: the first person to come to the TV station with a green cedar in the white field that touched both red stripes would win a prize. Very few people showed up with the correct flag. The cedar trees were in brown and green. Some touched the red stripes and others did not. Some brought flags with all-green cedar trees, but the cedars did not touch the reds. Even the flags that the Army had printed were wrong. However, the result of Sharara's challenge was an unprecedented raising of awareness of the actual design and colors of the flag.

Before that summer, the Ministry of Tourism printed the flag on letter-sized paper (but in the correct 2:3 proportions) with a brown and green cedar for local distribution, mostly to schools, especially around independence day (November 22nd). As of 1982, the Ministry started printing flags with all-green trees (ironically and sadly, the Ministry of Tourism website has an incorrect flag). Even the Lebanese Army printed new flags. It was a revolution. When flag day came round, all students were instructed to draw the flag correctly. Sharara's challenge came at a time when Lebanon was under Israeli occupation. Possibly, the challenge stirred up patriotism in the Lebanese at a time when the future was uncertain.

To summarize, all Lebanese flags that depict the cedar tree green and brown are incorrect. All flags in which the cedar tree does not touch the white are incorrect. They are not variants. They are simply wrong. The only acceptable variant is the long vertical banner for special occasions.

Neda Juraydini, 25 september 2000

Lance Pennant

[Lance Pennant (Lebanon)]
image by Neda Juraydini and Ivan Sache, 1 September 2002

French newspaper Courrier International, in its Summer Supplement sold with #613, 1 August 2002, shows a picture of young Lebanese soldiers with flags in the background. The flags are a triangular version of the national flag, with the cedar slightly skewed to the hoist. The flags are attached to a metallic staff with an arrow-head as finial. From the scale of the picture, my guess is that these flags are lance pennants, or pennants attached to something similar to a lance.

Ivan Sache, 1 September 2002