Memorial Day is behind us, which means summer is almost here. Flag Day is right around the corner, and then comes Independence Day. All through summer, it’s not uncommon to see flags flying proudly, or even used as cheerful, patriotic decorations. There are some basic etiquette rules about displaying the US flag, and a whole lot of myths and misunderstandings as well. Follow these basic guidelines and you’ll never be in the wrong.
The flag is normally displayed from sunrise to sunset. However, there is nothing wrong with flying the flag at night, so long as it’s lit. The flag should also be lowered in inclement weather, however, with the use of all-weather materials, it’s possible to fly your colors rain or shine. It is true that the flag should never touch the ground, and should be properly disposed of when it becomes too worn for flying. So, how do you properly display the flag?
If you’re lucky enough to have a standard flag pole, the US flag should always be flown on top, with the union (blue and white star section) at the top. Alternately, you can fly your flag from a pole mounted to the side of your house, garage, window sill, or balcony. The union should be at the peak of the staff.
If the flag is hung flat on a wall, in a window or from a railing, whether horizontally or vertically, the union is displayed to the flag’s own right (or the viewer’s left). It is assumed that the viewer is in the street, looking at the house for flags displayed to be visible from outside. If you are hanging the flag over a sidewalk, between a building and a pole, the flag is hoisted out union first, from the building.
What about the little flags found at just about every store from Memorial Day through Labor Day? Similar rules apply – if you’re placing them in your yard, along the walk, in planters or flower boxes, etc, make sure they’re lit at night, but don’t worry too much about which way the union sits, they’re going to move around.
Three fun flag facts:
- A flag flown upside down, with the union down, is an official distress signal that literally means “Emergency! Send help now!”
- The preferred method of disposing of a worn flag is ceremonial burning. Check with local VFW, Boy Scouts or American Legion troupes for help. Of course, it could also be folded and put in a display case.
- The 13 stripes on the US flag represent the original 13 colonies.