Waving a flag on Christmas…Island, that is
“How’dja like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?” Those are the opening lyrics to an old pop song, sung by crooner Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters in the 1940s, folk artist Leon Redbone more recently, and even Jimmy Buffet. But none of them performed it while waving the Christmas Island flag.
They’re both real – the island and its flag. A 19th-century New York City newspaper described Christmas Island as “a coral lagoon island situated south of Fanning’s Island.” If that doesn’t help, Christmas Island’s own website says that it’s “a dot in the Indian Ocean, located…northwest of Perth, Western Australia,” and southwest of Singapore.
That dot hasn’t always belonged to Australia. It was first spotted by British and Dutch explorers in the 17th century, and a sighting on December 25, 1643, led to its being named for the holy day.
Many decades passed before a British flag rose on the small isle in 1888 as a formal claim of ownership. It was hoisted by Admiral William May. In 1937, Great Britain re-asserted its rights when the U.S. took an interest in the outpost. In 1958, Christmas Island was formally put under Australia’s jurisdiction.
More years passed before the tiny dot got its own big flag. That happened, sort of, in 1986, nearly a century after Admiral May’s British flag-raising. That year, Tony Couch, an Australian who had once worked on Christmas Island, entered a contest to create its flag and won. For his efforts, he received $100, but not immediate acceptance of the banner. That was delayed until 2002.
The Christmas Island flag, a colorful and decorative banner, is as filled with images as a Christmas stocking is jammed with candy:
*The Southern Cross constellation sprinkles the lower left with white stars;
*A golden bosun bird, displaying its long, graceful tail and wings, flies off the right side;
*A map of the island, which somewhat resembles a dog’s silhouette, lies in a disc in the middle;
*Two main hues, green and blue, dominate the banner’s coloring and stand for the Pacific Ocean and the island’s vegetation.
The pop song about the holiday isle ends with these lyrics: “If you ever spend Christmas on Christmas Island/You will never stray, for ev’ry day/Your Christmas dreams come true.”
Maybe your 2016 Christmas dream will include the gift of an unusual flag.