On June 14th, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the design for what would become the American flag. In the past 250 years, it has been a consistent symbol of the bravery of all Americans, our independence, and our commitment to freedom.
But despite seeing the flag on a near-daily basis, many Americans don’t know how to display their flags. But it’s one of the easiest ways to demonstrate your patriotism.
You can show respect to the red, white, and blue by flying an American flag properly. Keep reading to learn how to correctly display this symbol of freedom and American pride!
What the Flag Represents
If you think back to high school history class, you may remember some of the symbolism that our flag contains. And while the overall design has shifted and changed over the years, what it represents has not.
Most people know that the thirteen alternating red and white stripes are for the thirteen original colonies. These thirteen colonies are who declared independence from England in 1776 and fought the American Revolution.
The fifty stars are for the fifty states in the Union. The last time the flag was changed was in 1960 after Hawaii joined as the 50th state.
The colors of the flag are also meaningful. The red represents bravery, the white represents innocence and purity, while the blue is for justice.
Showing Proper Respect
One of the easiest ways to show respect for the flag is in your conduct. During the Pledge of Allegiance, men should remove their hats and everyone should stand at attention. People stand for the flag with their hands over their hearts during the National Anthem as well.
How to Display the American Flag
In 1942, the United States Congress passed the U.S. Flag Code which establishes the proper etiquette for how and when to display the American flag.
Hanging on a Wall
If you’re hanging a flag on a wall, make sure that it doesn’t touch the floor or other decor. The blue starfield (known as the union) should be hung on the upper left corner from the viewer’s perspective.
One of the most common ways to display the American flag outside your home is with an angled bracket mounted on the siding or post. When flying the flag this way, make sure that the flag hangs down freely with nothing to interfere with its draping.
As with any other kind of flag display, make sure there’s no other flag or pendant that is displayed higher than the American flag.
Flown From a Staff
Raising the American flag on a staff is done outside government buildings, schools, homes, and other official buildings. It should be raised quickly and without letting it touch the ground, which is a big no-no.
The flag should be able to flow freely in the breeze with nothing to block or tangle it.
When raising the American flag on a staff or flag pole, always make sure the blue starfield is at the top. An upside-down flag is a sign of distress and means significant danger.
When to Display the American Flag
The rules for when to fly include specific dates, times, and even when to fly at half-staff.
Dates to Display the American Flag
- January 1st – New Year’s Day
- January 20th – Inauguration Day
- The third Monday of January – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- The third Monday of February – President’s Day
- March 29th – National Vietnam War Veterans Day
- Easter Sunday
- Second Sunday in May – Mother’s Day
- Third Saturday in May – Armed Forces Day
- Last Monday in May – Memorial Day (half-staff until noon)
- June 14 – Flag Day
- Third Sunday in June – Father’s Day
- July 4 – Independence Day
- July 27 – National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
- First Monday in September – Labor Day
- September 17 – Constitution Day
- Second Monday in October – Columbus Day
- October 27 – Navy Day
- November 11 – Veterans Day
- Fourth Thursday in November – Thanksgiving Day
- December 25 – Christmas Day
There are also additional state holidays and proclamations by the president or state governors when flags are to be flown as well.
When Not to Display the American Flag
There are also guidelines for when the American flag should not be flown. These include inclement weather such as rain, hail, or snow. You should also take down the flag when the sun sets unless you have lights to illuminate it.
Finally, if your flag is tattered or unfit to display with proper etiquette and honor, it should be retired. The preferred method is with a ceremonial burning, but this isn’t always safe or possible.
You can contact your local American Legion to see if they can help you properly dispose of your flag. They often hold Disposal of Unserviceable Flag Ceremonies on Flag Day, which is June 14th.
Flying the Flag at Half-Staff
Flying a flag at half-staff is a way of showing mourning and only comes at the direction of the president of the United States or a state’s governor. This can include the deaths of leaders or former leaders in government and specific catastrophic events (such as mass shootings).
The flag should always be raised to full-staff before being slowly lowered to half-staff. This is a way of showing respect for the order and demonstrate mourning.
There are also specific dates and holidays when it is customary to fly a flag at half-staff. For example, from sunrise until noon on Memorial Day, at which point it is raised to full-staff.
Show Respect for the Stars and Stripes
The American Flag is a symbol of respect for our nation, its rich history, and the men and women who have served in the armed forces. Knowing how and when to properly display and show respect for this symbol of freedom and democracy is a way to demonstrate your patriotism and pride in our nation!
If you’re interested in knowing more tips and tricks for your finances, household, or health, make sure you take some time to look at the other posts here on our site!