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Flag Day is an annual holiday that celebrates the American flag and is celebrated on June 14 every year. It commemorates the day the Second Continental Congress passed the first flag resolution. Read on to learn more about the significance of Flag Day and how to properly practice American flag code to celebrate!
What is Flag Day, and Why is it Important to Celebrate?
During the American Revolution, colonists weren’t united under a single flag. Instead, most regiments fought under their local flags. Then, in June 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to create the Continental Army. Now that America had an army, it needed a flag.
The first iteration of what we now think of as the American flag looked awfully close to the British flag. It had 13 red and white alternating stripes and a Union Jack icon in the corner. President George Washington realized pretty quickly that the flag wasn’t doing much to inspire confidence in the new Continental Army, so he decided to change it.
On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a flag resolution stating, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
Now that America had its flag, the county set out to establish itself as a new nation. However, it took 100 years for President Woodrow Wilson to mark the anniversary of the Second Continental Congress degree by establishing June 14 as Flag Day.
Though it’s not as widely celebrated as some of the other patriotic holidays in America, Flag Day is a significant national observance. It marks the first time American colonists had colors of their own to fly.
Five Facts You Might Not Know About the American Flag
- President Wilson borrowed the idea of Flag Day from a small town Wisconsin school teacher. In 1885, Bernard Cigrand led his school in the first formal observance of the holiday.
- There’s no factual evidence that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. Historians still aren’t sure who stitched together Old Glory, but most believe Ross had something to do with the flag’s creation.
- America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was inspired by Francis Scott Key witnessing the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. (Bonus fact: It took until 1931 for the Star-Spangled Banner to become the national anthem.)
- When Alaska was admitted to the Union in the 1950s, designers were worried about fitting the additional star on the current flag. A high school student in Ohio, Bob Heft, disassembled his family’s 48-star flag and stitched 50 onto it. Then he handed it to his history teacher and explained that he thought Hawaii would probably become a state soon too.
- Heft sent his flag to his Congressman, who then presented it to President Eisenhower after Hawaii and Alaska joined the Union. Eisenhower selected Heft’s design as the new national flag.
American Flag Code & Etiquette
Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1 details the rules, etiquette, and regulations regarding the American flag. If you don’t have time to read the US Code, here’s everything you need to know about how not to display a flag and all of the rules regarding how to honor America’s colors.
Here’s How Not to Display the Flag
- The flag should never be displayed with the Union (stars) down unless as a signal of dire distress.
- The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
- Never carry the flag flat or horizontally.
- Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
- Never use the flag as a blanket or clothing.
- The flag should never have anything placed on it.
- You should never fly a flag upside down unless it’s a distress call.
How to Fly the Flag Correctly
- The universal custom is to display the flag from sunrise to sunset. If the flag can be appropriately illuminated during darkness, it can be displayed 24 hours a day.
- The flag should be hoisted quickly and lowered slowly.
- When placed on a single staff, the American flag should be above all flags.
- When flags are displayed in a row, the American flag goes to the observer’s left.
- When a flag is flown at half-staff, it should first be raised to the staff's peak for an instant and then lowered to half-staff. It should be raised to the peak again before being lowered for the day.