City Hall blossomed with Philadelphia pride Wednesday as elementary school students and civic leaders celebrated the 118th birthday of the city's flag - a unifying symbol that Mayor Nutter acknowledged "sometimes goes unnoticed in our daily lives."

Brenda Exon, cofounder of the nonprofit advocacy group Partners for Civic Pride, gave a history lesson on the Philadelphia flag, which depicts the city seal on a gold-and-sky-blue background. She said her group was trying to establish March 27, Philadelphia Civic Flag Day, "as an important day on the Philadelphia calendar."

Fourth-grade students from the Heston School in Overbrook performed a skit in the Mayor's Reception Room that paid homage to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nutter addressed the gathering via video. Then, former Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall, after receiving the group's 2013 Philadelphia Maneto Award, led participants to Thomas Paine Plaza, where she helped raise the banner high in the azure sky.

The phrase Philadelphia Maneto is emblazoned on the flag. It is a blend of Greek and Latin that means "Let brotherly love continue." The words come from the New Testament (Hebrews 13:1) and are said to have been uttered by descendants of William Penn on a visit to Philadelphia in the 19th century, according to Partners for Civic Pride.

The Philadelphia Maneto Award is presented annually to someone who exemplifies the motto. Boxing legend Joe Frazier was given the first award posthumously last year. His son Marvis presented John-Hall with her award.

John-Hall, who left The Inquirer this year, talked about the influence she had as an African American female columnist in Philadelphia and thanked her family for supporting her.

The centerpiece of the flag is the seal, which has a shield with ship and plow emblems that represent commerce. Two female figures flank the shield, one holding a scroll depicting an anchor that signifies hope, the other holding a cornucopia that symbolizes abundance. Above the shield is a bent arm holding the scales of justice and mercy.

The blue stands for aspiration and the gold signifies high worth, according to Partners for Civic Pride. The flag symbolizes peace, hope, justice, and prosperity. On March 27, 1895, City Council made the flag official. More than a century later, on March 27, 2005, Council established Philadelphia Civic Flag Day.

Contact Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman at sabdur-rahman@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @sabdurr.