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  • Writer's pictureJace Shoemaker-Galloway

Flag Day: American flag rules and etiquette for Old Glory

Today not only celebrates National Cucumber Day and World Blood Donor Day, but also celebrates an iconic American symbol. June 14 is Flag Day, an annual holiday that celebrates and honors the American flag. Each year, people across the nation commemorate the annual holiday by proudly displaying the American flag or by participating in a variety of flag-inspired events.

The first official national flag, known as the Stars and Stripes, was adopted by the United States Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. Years later in 1885, teacher Bernard J. CiGrand, placed a small, 38-star flag on his desk and asked his students to write an essay on the flag and what it signified. His dream to bring national recognition to the American flag finally became a reality in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a nationwide observance of Flag Day. But it was not until 1949 when President Harry S. Truman designated June 14th the official Flag Day holiday.

Each year, the President of the United States issues aproclamation calling for the Flag Day observance as part of National Flag Week.

American Flag Rules & Etiquette

There were no federal or state regulations regarding the display of the American flag until June 14th, 1923, when the National Flag Code was adopted by the National Flag Conference.

According to the Code, there are proper ways to display, fold, dispose and care for the American flag. The Code also gives the United States President the authority to modify the rules of the flag.

  • The United States flag has 13 horizontal red and white stripes and 50 stars representing the states of America. If a new state is admitted to the union, one new star shall be added to the flag and shall take effect on July 4th “then next succeeding such admission.”

  • When reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, stand at attention and face the flag placing your right hand over your heart. Men should remove any “non-religious” headdress when not in uniform.

  • The American flag should only be flown from sunrise to sunset unless properly illuminated during darkness.

  • No portion of the flag should touch the ground, floor, water or any other object beneath it when lowered.

  • Flags should be displayed only in good weather, unless it is an all-weather flag.

  • When flown at half-staff, the flag should first be hoisted to its peak then lowered to half-staff.

  • Flags should be flown in or near polling places on election days.

  • Schools should display the flag when in session.

  • The flag is only to be flown upside-down (union down) only as a distress signal in instances of “extreme danger to life or property.”

  • American flags should be carefully folded in the shape of a tri-colored hat, signifying the hats worn by colonial soldiers.

  • When a flag is badly worn, it should be properly disposed of, preferably by burning.

Please see the National Flag Code for the complete listing of flag rules and regulations.

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