flag etiquette

Summer is right around the corner and that means Independence Day! The Fourth of July is a traditional day for flying the Stars and Stripes. Did you know there’s a right way and a wrong way to fly the flag?

Are you planning to hoist the American flag this Fourth of July or any other day of the year? Make sure you know the standard rules of flag etiquette.

Keep reading for seven rules you should know when it comes to flying the flag.

The U.S. Flag Code

There is a code for American flag etiquette established by Congress in 1942. The reason for the code is to honor the flag as a symbol of the sovereignty of the United States.  As such, the members and veterans of our armed services stand and salute the flag as it’s hoisted or lowered as well as when it passes in a parade.

Etiquette requires citizens to place their right hand over their heart as the flag passes or when hoisting or lowering the flag. If you’re wearing a hat, remove it and hold it over your heart with your right hand. There are other rules of etiquette for how, when, and where the flag is displayed.

1. Days of the Week

You can display your American flag on any day of the week. You should hoist it at sunrise and lower it at sunset.

You can fly the flag 24 hours a day but only if you have proper illumination at night. Place a spotlight directly on the flag. If you don’t have a spotlight, good porch lighting is okay as long as the flag is well illuminated and recognizable.

Only flying the flag on special days? Then fly it on:

  • New Years Day
  • Inauguration Day
  • Maring Luther King, Jr’s observed holiday
  • President Lincoln’s birthday
  • President’s Day
  • Easter Sunday
  • Mother’s Day
  • Armed Forces Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Flag Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Constitution Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Navy Day
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • State birthdays
  • State holidays

At various times during the year, the president may proclaim special days for displaying the flag. Every school, public institution, and polling place (on election days) should also display an American flag.

2. Correct Orientation

Never hang your flag upside down or backward. Avoid anything disrespectful or inappropriate when flying the flag.

Do you want to hang it vertically out the window of an upper story room? That’s appropriate but make sure the Union portion of the flag (with the blue rectangle and stars) hangs on the observer’s upper left.

3. Good Condition Only

Always avoid letting the flag touch the ground. If it accidentally touches the ground, there’s no need to dispose of it unless it’s irreparably damaged. Do make sure it’s clean and in good condition before hanging it again.

Most modern flags are safe for machine washing in a mild detergent. Check the manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Inclement Weather

If there’s bad weather in the forecast, avoid hoisting your flag. The exception to that is if you have an all-weather flag. Most modern flags are weather-resistant nylon but consider keeping your flag in during extreme weather.

5. Hoisting and Lowering

The flag is hoisted quickly and lowered ceremoniously. Flags are flown at half-staff when the nation mourns.

Are you raising the flag to half-staff? Raise it quickly to the peak for a moment and then lower it back down to half-staff. At the end of the day, raise the flag to the peak again before lowering it for the day.

What is half-staff vs half-mast? They’re both the distance halfway between the top and bottom of the flag pole. It’s half-staff if you’re on land and half-mast if you’re at sea on a ship.

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Lower your flag to half-staff upon the death of the President of the United States or the death of a former president. Leave the flag at half-mast for 30 days from the date of death.

You should also fly the flag at half-mast for the death of:

  • Vice-president
  • Chief justice
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Retired chief justice

Fly the flag at half-mast for 10 days from the date of death of these dignitaries.

For others, fly the flag at half-mast from the date of death until the internment of the individual. Those individuals include:

  • Associate justice of the Supreme Court
  • Cabinet member
  • Former vice president
  • President pro tempore of the Senate
  • The majority leader of the House of Representatives
  • The minority leader of the House of Representatives

There are also area-specific times for raising the flag, such as in the metro area of Washington, DC upon the death of a U.S. Senator or Representative.

6. The Flag’s Position

Are you flying the U.S. flag in conjunction with other flags? Place the American flag above the other flags. If the flags are on the same level, place all other flags to the right of the American flag.

Do not place the United Nations flag above the U.S. flag. The only time the United Nations flag is above the American flag is at the United Nations Headquarters.

Are you putting the American flag with a group of state flags? Put the American flag in the center and at the highest point.

Never dip the flag to a person or thing – not even the president!

7. Disposing Of an Old Flag

Once a flag is no longer fit for display, destroy it in a dignified manner. The most appropriate manner is burning during a ceremony.

Do you have an old flag in need of disposal? Contact your local American Legion post. They conduct annual flag-burning ceremonies.

Display Your Patriotism With Proper Flag Etiquette

Display your patriotism proudly and always remember to use proper flag etiquette. A well-made American flag offers you years of joy and satisfaction as you display the emblem of your nation’s sovereignty.

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By Sambit