U.S. Flag Code: Etiquette and Rules

Published on
January 21, 2022 12:36:53 PM PST January 21, 2022 12:36:53 PM PSTst, January 21, 2022 12:36:53 PM PST

To stay true to the US flag code, one should know the basic rules of American Flag etiquette. While certain rules are common knowledge, such as flying the flag on national holidays, there are still a couple of etiquette rules that may surprise you.

 

Let’s take a closer look at what the US flag code means for the civilian American.

 

What Is the US Flag Code?

 

The US Flag Code is a joint resolution passed by Congress in 1942. In its essence, the Flag Code is a list of rules and recommendations on how the Stars and Stripes should be handled and displayed.

 

One of the basic rules is that if the flag is being hoisted (or lowered), a civilian should place their right hand over their heart. A member of the service of a veteran is to stand at attention and salute the flag.

 

How Often Should the Flag Be Displayed?

 

The short answer: every single day.

 

Indeed, it’s true. If you decide to fly the Old Glory in front of your home or perhaps on the wall of your living room, it can remain there forever. Nevertheless, there are certain exceptions when it comes to outdoor display:

 

·   When the weather conditions are poor — gusts and storms can damage the flag and the flagpole, so it’s best if you lower the Stars and Stripes on such days.

 

·   The US flag can be displayed at darkness hours as well but only if it is visible. Basically, the flagpole and the flag have to be clearly illuminated. (Link to solar lights)

 

US Flag Code and National Holidays

 

The flag should be flown or on display all year long, but certain days are especially suitable for showing support to your country. These are national holidays that are more festive with the flag high up:

 

·   January 1 (New Year)

·   January 20 (Presidential Inauguration Day – once every 4 years)

·   3rd Monday in January (Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday)

·   February 12 (Lincoln’s birthday)

·   3rd Monday in February (President’s Day)

·   Easter Sunday (the exact date varies every year)

·   2nd Sunday in May (Mother’s Day)

·   3rd Saturday in May (Armed Forces Day)

·   Last Monday in May (Memorial Day)

·   June 14th (Flag Day)

·   3rd Sunday in June (Father’s Day)

·   July 4 (Independence Day)

·   1st Monday in September (Labor Day)

·   September 17 (Constitution Day)

·   2nd Monday in October (Columbus Day)

·   October 27 (Navy Day)

·   November 11 (Veterans Day)

·   4th Thursday in November (Thanksgiving Day)

·   December 25 (Christmas Day)

 

The holiday missing from the list is a state’s birthday, i.e. the day your state joined the Union.

 

If any other days are proclaimed as national holidays by the President in the meantime, they too should be added to the list.

 

US Flag Etiquette Basic Do’s and Don’ts

 

Let’s take a look at some of the essential rules and recommendations how to handle and display the Stars and Stripes with care and respect:

 

·   Never let the flag touch the ground — the flag, either hoisted or displayed indoors, should never touch the ground. The only exception is if you have washed it and you wish to dry it on the ground. Yet, even that is done in a strictly defined manner to show due respect.

 

·   Indoor display — when displaying the flag against a wall, the blue, i.e. the stars, should be in the top left corner. The same goes when you wish to display the Old Glory in a window. Bear in mind the principle is identical, meaning the stars are in the top left corner from the viewer’s perspective (a person looking at the window from the outside).

 

·   Quickly and slowly — you should always hoist the flag in an energetic yet respectful way. Lowering of the flag, be it half-staff or completely, is performed slowly and ceremoniously. 

 

·   In good shape — maintain the flag in good condition. The Old Glory is not supposed to look old, dirty, or frayed! Choose the flag material best suited for your area and the indoor or outdoor display. Follow the washing instructions and remove the flag in stormy or bad weather

 

·   Always fold it right — to ensure the flag’s longevity, follow closely the instructions for folding the flag. This is even more important if you fly the flag in daylight but remove it during nighttime.

 

US Flag and Other Flags

 

No matter which flag or flags are going to be displayed alongside the US flag, it should be done in a way not to overshadow the Stars and Stripes. Here is how you do it (the rules apply to both outdoor and indoor display):

 

·   If the flags are displayed in one line, the US flag is always to the observer’s left.

·   The national flag can be displayed in a higher position, but never the lower, compared to the other flags. The same goes for the size.

·   The flag display has to follow the order of precedence. The national flag is always the first, followed by the state flag, the army flags, and then the flags of other countries.

 

Flying the Flag At Half-Staff

 

On days of mourning for the whole nation (or the state), the  Old Glory is flown half-staff. However, you should not simply hoist the flag till the middle of the flagpole. 

 

The flag is first hoisted all the way up, as usual, and then lowered to the middle. It should remain in that position until the end of the day. When the day is over, you should hoist it up again. This rule is applied also in the cases when the flag is removed overnight. It should first be hoisted up, and then lowered for the day.

 

Memorial Day, though, is an exception. In order to honor the fallen soldiers who gave their lives for freedom, the flag is lowered only until noon, and then hoisted back up.

 

Take care: when lowering the flag, it should be done slowly. Hoisting the flag is supposed to be done “briskly”.

 

US Flag Retirement

 

Finally, there comes the time when the flag has become too worn out and frayed and it’s time it finished the service. Never wait for your flag to appear extremely worn out, or even torn, to be an appealing view, but rather retire the flag timely. There are several ways for flag retirement or even flag burial to be performed with honor. You can even retire your flag with our Stars and Stripes Program.

 

Conclusion

 

The above are some of the crucial rules of American flag code etiquette. Naturally, a lot depends on whether your flag is displayed indoors or outdoors, so we definitely advise you explore all the nitty-gritty details on how to honor the Stars and Stripes in your particular case.