Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the United States flag in 1777, is officially celebrated on June 14.
Since 1942, the United States has been following the U.S. Flag Code, a long list of rules and guidelines for displaying and respecting the American flag. Before you display your American flag, make sure you are familiar with flag etiquette. Here are some of the do's and don'ts:
- To raise the flag, hoist it up "briskly," but lower it "ceremoniously."
- The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
- If you're raising other national flags too, the U.S. flag should be raised first and lowered last.
- The U.S. flag should always be in the center and highest when displayed with other flags.
- If displaying the flag off a staff, it should be displayed flat.
- If the flag is being shown on a wall, door or window, the blue section, also known as the Union, should go on your left when displayed horizontally. If you are displaying it vertically, the Union should stay in the upper left-hand corner.
- If you are covering a casket with the flag, put the Union at the upper right-hand corner.
- A flag should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. But it may be displayed 24 hours a day if illuminated.
- The flag should never be displayed with the stars down, unless as a signal of dire distress.
- The flag should never touch anything underneath it, such as the floor, the ground, water or merchandise.
- The flag shouldn't be displayed outdoors during bad weather.
- Don't ever carry the flag flat or horizontally; it should always be aloft and free.
- Don't improperly dispose of a flag.
- The flag should not be used as a drapery, or to cover a desk, drape a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
- The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure or drawing of any kind.
- The flag should not be used for advertising and should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.
When should American flags fly at half-staff?
On Flag Day and Independence Day, the flag should be raised high, although some occasions call for the flag to be displayed at half-staff.
When raising the flag to be hung at half-staff, it should be raised to the top of the staff, then lowered.
Here are the half-staff rules, according to the U.S. Flag Code:
- The flag should be hung at half-staff during these events: 30 days after the death of a current or former president or president-elect; 10 days after the death of a current vice president, current or retired chief justice, or current speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until the burial day of an associate justice of the Supreme Court, a secretary of an executive or military department, a former vice president, the president pro tempore of the Senate, or the governor of a state, territory or possession; and on the day of death and the next day for a member of Congress.
- A few specific days also call for the flag to not be hung high. It's at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day; all day Sept. 11, in honor of Patriot Day and in remembrance of the 2001 terrorist attacks; Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15 (unless it's also Armed Forces Day); and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Dec. 7.
- The president can issue an executive order for the flag to be flown at half-staff when a notable person dies or a tragic event occurs. For example, after the recent Virginia Beach mass shooting, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation that American flags should be flown at half-staff.
- Governors of U.S. states and territories have the ability to order all U.S. and state flags in their jurisdiction flown at half-staff in certain circumstances, as well: the death of a former or current state official or a member of the armed forces who has died in active duty.
Fun American flag facts
- The flag was designed by Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a naval flag designer who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
- What do the colors red, white and blue signify? According to custom and tradition, white signifies purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valor; and blue, vigilance, perseverance and justice.
- What's a canton? The blue field in the upper left corner of the flag.
- What's a halyard? The rope used to raise the flag. It's also called a hoist rope.
- You probably know who Betsy Ross is. But did you know that the Betsy Ross House, which is now a Philadelphia museum, asks its visitors to think about whether it’s “historical fact or well-loved fiction" that she sewed the first American flag?
Follow Amy J. Vellucci on Twitter: @AmyVellucci
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Flag Day is June 14: Here's what you need to know about flag etiquette