Flag Day is celebrated on June 4 in Estonia, a day when the blue, black and white tricolor is hoisted throughout the country. Estonian Flag Association chairman Jüri Trei and Government Office adviser Gert Uiboaed explain how to appropriately dispose of worn, tattered or stained Estonian flags.
The Estonian Flag Act states that a flag that has become unusable must be destroyed in a dignified manner.
"If you see that it is already in such a state that it is no longer usable, then it must be disposed of properly," Trei explained. "It has seams. Take it apart at the seams, into strips, and that's it; then it is no longer a flag."
Trei stressed that one should choose flag producers carefully, as not everyone produces high-quality and durable flags, adding that one should also be sure that the flag uses the right shades of color.
Prior to disposing of a flag, one should first consider how valuable it might be as well. Uiboaed said that in addition to disposal, one may also consider saving an old flag instead.
"If it is of significant importance, then a flag can always be saved for oneself, meaning not for use as a flag, but to keep as a souvenir," he explained. "But if you don't want to keep a flag as a souvenir or it doesn't hold any such historic value, then the proper thing is to cut it into strips by color, and then either privately burn these strips or package them discreetly and throw them away."
In order to extend the useful life of a flag as much as possible, Uiboaed recommended some basic tips for flag maintenance.
"In order to extend a flag's lifespan, you definitely have to maintain the fabric of the flag," he said. "If the fabric is wet, then it certainly must not be stored wet. Another thing — if the fabric has been in use for an extended period of time already, then it is inevitable that it will get dirty. In that case, it should be washed occasionally — but not with too hot water. Thirdly, it is inevitable that a flag will wear as well, fraying in the wind. In that case it should be mended with the correct color thread where it is torn, and then the flag can continue being used for quite some time yet."
From fraternity flag to national symbol
The first Estonian flag was consecrated as the flag of the Estonian Students' Society (EÜS) in the hall of Otepää St. Mary's Lutheran Church in a secret ceremony on June 4, 1884, 14 years after the first ethnically Estonian student organization's founding in in 1870 and 15 years after the yet-unformed Estonia's first national song festival was held in 1869, both in Estonia's major university town of Tartu.
The ceremony was intentionally held outside of Tartu as the the color combination of blue, black and white had not been officially approved by the umbrella organization governing ruling local Baltic-German fraternities at the time, and as a result, it had already had an inauspicious public debut two years prior when the organization's president at the time chose to wear a cap and ribbon in the fraternity's unapproved colors in public and suffered grave consequences as a result.
Over subsequent decades, the colors and the flag took on increasingly important meaning as symbols of a growing nationalist movement, and in November 1918, the blue, black and white tricolor, originally the flag of EÜS, was officially adopted as the national flag of the Republic of Estonia, which had declared its independence for the first time nine months prior, on February 24, 1918.
Editor: Aili Vahtla