Today, June 14, is Flag Day in the United States — commemorating the day in 1777 that the U.S. adopted the flag by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. President Woodrow Wilson officially established the day as National Flag Day in 1916, and ever since Americans have celebrated the Stars and Stripes by displaying flags outside the home, businesses, and in parades. But did you know that there is an etiquette to displaying the American flag (for instance, to dispose of a U.S. flag you should only burn or bury it with ceremony)? As Independence Day is right around the corner, we thought we’d share American flag dos as well as a few don’ts so that you can celebrate our country and honor the flag and all it stands for.
AMERICAN FLAG ETIQUETTE DO’S
Display the flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open. If you wish to display a flag at night, ensure it’s lit properly so that it’s illuminated and can be seen in the dark.
Ensure the flag is always “aloft and free,” according to U.S. flag etiquette code. So, as tempting as it may be to carry the flag horizontally like we see at football games or parades, this is actually wrong!
Fly the U.S. flag higher and above all other flags (i.e. the Texas state flag). The only exception is the flags of other nations — those can be flown at the same height but never on the same flag staff or pole.
Display the flag on the observers’ left when in a line of flags — so when someone is looking at the flag, it’s always to the left (AKA the first one an observer would see if looking Left to Right). The same rule applies to displaying a flag on your car!
Always display a flag where the union (AKA the blue field of stars) is uppermost and to the flag’s own right (again to the observer’s left).
Take down any flags you have displayed, whether at home or your place of business, if it rains.
Salute the flag by facing it, standing at attention with your right hand over your heart, and removing your hat. You may hold your hat in your hand and place it against your left shoulder.
Store all U.S. flags by folding in the traditional triangle — never wadded up.
AMERICAN FLAG ETIQUETTE DON’TS
Don’t use the flag as clothing — this includes t-shirts, swimsuits, hats, and all the other clothing items we see at so many retailers. This is actually against U.S. flag etiquette code!
Don’t use the flag as a napkin — even those cute paper napkins for your Fourth of July BBQ. The code is quite strict about using the flag (or any representation of it) to wipe your mouth with mustard!
Don’t fly the flag at half-mast unless it’s ordered by the president or your state’s governor, in the event of a national tragedy, or on a national day of remembrance (i.e. Memorial Day).
Don’t throw away a U.S. flag. Yes, even the mini flags you purchase from Target! Either store them properly, wash them if dirty, or properly dispose of them by burning (always check city codes) or burying.
Don’t replace the union stars with another image.
Don’t ask celebrities or friends to sign your flag. And don’t draw on it.
Don’t let the flag touch the ground, and don’t carry it flat. Also, don’t use it as a cover for anything.
Don’t use the flag for decoration. A great alternative is patriotic bunting! Just ensure the blue is on top, then white, then red.
You can learn more on our government’s website, along with history and the meaning of the flag’s colors. This would be a wonderful thing to teach your children ahead of Independence Day!
Sources: Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs