Flag Etiquette

1. Flag Flying Holidays 3. Flying at Half-Staff

5. Retiring the American Flag

2. Displaying Your Flag

4. Folding Your Flag

 

 

Flag etiquette for flying the American flag has been set by our government and should be followed by all. Let’s look at some of the key areas; starting with special flag flying holidays, how to display the American flag, when and how to fly your flag at half-staff, how to fold it, when and how to dispose of it in a respectful manner.

 

1. Flag Flying Holidays

Flags can be flown on any given day from sunrise to sunset and throughout the night (if it has a light shining on it). Below is a list of dates for special flag flying days.

Date Occasion
JAN

January 1
January - 3rd Monday
January 20 (every 4 years)

New Year's Day
Martin Luther King's Birthday
Inauguration Day

FEB February 12
February - 3rd Monday
February 22
February 22
Lincoln's Birthday
President's Day
Washington's Birthday
Victory in Europe Day
MAY May - 3rd Sunday
May - Last Monday (half-staff until noon)
Armed Forces Day
Memorial Day
JUNE June 14 Flag Day
JULY July 4 Independence Day
AUG August 4 Coast Guard Day
SEPT September - 1st Monday
September 2
September 11
September 17
September - 3rd Friday
Labor Day
Victory over Japan Day
Patriot Day
Constitution Day
POW/MIA Recognition Day
OCT October - 2nd Monday
October 27
Columbus Day
Navy Day
NOV November - 1st Tuesday after 1st Monday
November 10
November 11
November - 4th Thursday
Election Day
Marine Corps Birthday
Veteran's Day
Thanksgiving Day
DEC December 7 Pearl Harbor Day
Don’t forget about state holidays and patriotic occasions!


2. Displaying the American Flag

The fundamental rule of the flag etiquette is "treat all flags with respect and common sense." That means make sure that the flag does not touch the ground, replace it when it looks worn, fly it correctly, etc. Improper use and display of the American or any other flag is worse than no display at all.

Currently, there is only one instance when a U.S. flag can be flown upside down: during extreme distress when danger to life or property is imminent. It can be a great insult to fly a flag upside down otherwise. Great care should also be taken when displaying the flags of other countries. Let’s have a look at how to salute and display flags correctly.

A salute (hand over heart for those not in uniform) should be rendered when the U.S. flag is raised, lowered, or carried by during a parade. This also applies when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited or the national anthem is played (unless the flag is not present). Veterans and active-duty military not in uniform may render the military-style hand salute.

Flag etiquette using single flagpoleMultiple flags: The American flag takes precedence over all other flags when flown within the United States. It should be raised first and lowered last. Other flags may be flown at the same height and in the same size, but the U.S. flag cannot be flown lower or be smaller than others.

Flag etiquite using multiple flagpolesCountry flags: All national flags should be flown at the same height and in the same size as the Stars and Stripes when displayed together. If it is not possible to display two or more country flags at the same height, then it is not proper to display them together at all.

Flag etiquite half-staff using multiple polesHalf-Staff: If one flag is at half-staff in mourning, other flags flown with it should be at half-staff as well. First raise the flags to their peak, then lower to half- staff. The U.S. flag is raised first and lowered last. If you are not able to lower your flag to half-staff, use mourning bows or streamers instead.

Flag etiquette hanging flag verticallyWall or window: When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall or in a window, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right and to the observer's left. If you are displaying multiple flags at the same time, the above rules still apply.

Flag etiquette using crossed flagpolesCrossed staff against a wall: The U.S. flag, when displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on its right and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

Flag etiquitte in a roomDesk: The point of honor is on the extreme left from the standpoint of the observer. The order from left to right of flags flown together is: the U.S. flag, other national flags in alphabetical order, state flags, county and city flags, organizational flags, personal flags.

Flag etiquette audience roomPublic gathering: In a public gathering (lecture hall, church, etc.), the American flag should be to the right of the speakers (observer's left) or on the wall behind them. For additional flags follow the protocol outlined above.

Flag etiquette with center flagGroup of flags: The U.S. flag should be in the center of a group of flags only when the center pole is taller than the others or when a fan-like arrangement makes the center pole higher than the others.

It is not improper to fly any flag (state, ethnic group, organization, etc.) by itself, but it is always preferable to display the American flag at the same time.

If the flag is displayed at night, it should be illuminated.

When a flag is no longer of a fitting appearance and cannot be repaired, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner (burned or sealed in a bag or box before being sent out for trash collection).

 

3. Flying the Flag at Half-Staff

There are times when you need to fly your flag at half-staff to remember or mourn the lost ones. The President may order this after tragic events, deaths of officials, foreign dignitaries, etc. In addition, federal buildings and naval vessels in the Washington D.C. area fly their flags in mourning on the day of and the day after the death of a U.S. senator, representative, territorial delegate or the resident commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

To lower your flag to half-staff, make sure you first raise it to the top and then lower it back down halfway to make room for an invisible flag of death above it. All flags that are flown should be lowered. If you have more than one flag on a pole, make sure to remove the second flag so that it is not dishonored by touching the ground during half-staff. The American flag should be raised first and lowered last.

If your flagpole does not allow to fly a flag at half-staff, attach a black mourning bow or a streamer to the top of it (underneath the ornament). For flags that hang on the wall, attach three mourning bows to the top: one to each corner and one in the middle.

 

4. Folding the American Flag

American Flag Folding

  1. Bring the red-white striped half up over the blue field lengthwise.
  2. Fold the flag the same way again to make it less wide.
  3. On the right hand side, pull the bottom part of the red-white striped corner to its upper edge to form a triangle.
  4. To continue the triangle, fold the upper point in towards the hoist end of the flag. Keep doing this until the entire length of the flag is folded.
  5. When you get near the end and there is nothing but the blue field showing, tuck the last bit of the unfolded flag into the folded part to secure it.

Folded American FlagThis is what the flag should look like after being folded. It is usually showcased in a special case. Every fold is believed to have a special meaning. You can find out more about that from the American Legion.

 

5. Retiring the American Flag

Once your flag is starting to fade or is torn, it is no longer suitable for display. It is important to dispose of your worn American flag in a dignified manner.

It can be taken to a qualified organization such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boy and Girl Scouts of America and the U.S. Military where the official American flags will be retired through a burning ceremony.

Alternatively, you can seal the retired flag in a bag or box, ensure that the package cannot become undone or broken and send it out for trash collection.

 

 

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Additionally, you can have a look at our other guides below.

Flag Buying Guide 

Boat Flag Buying Guide

Signal Flag Buying Guide

Custom Flag Buying Guide

Hardware Buying Guide 

Glossary of Flag Terms