Independence Day may be July 4th, but you should know how to properly display your American flag all year round!
You’d be surprised how often the flag is incorrectly displayed, especially during patriotic dates and parties - for example, any kind of product with the flag on it is improper display, according to etiquette. However, by following these steps you’ll be respecting the flag as The Flag Code demands it!
Basic Flag Etiquette
When displaying the flag from a pole outdoors, from windows, balconies, or buildings, the union (blue) should be at the peak of the pole.
When you hang the flag vertically or horizontally, the union (blue) always has to be in the upper left corner.
Never dip the flag - meaning, never point it down. This is a sign of deference in some countries and is considered rude, while displaying the flag upside is a sign of distress.
Ideally, the flag should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset every day.
The flag should not be displayed during bad weather, as it may get damaged or destroyed during such conditions.
Party and Decoration Etiquette
Don’t use the flag as decoration - bunting in the colors of the flag are available for that very purpose.
Never use the flag as drapery - like covering tables, desks, or draping platforms. Which means, don’t use it as a tablecloth at your 4th of July BBQ. Basically, don’t place anything on the flag.
Never use the flag for advertising purposes - likewise, you shouldn’t use the flag for anything that will be thrown away.
Never attach anything to the flag - like marks, insignias, letters, words, numbers, figures or drawings. Not even inspirational or patriotic messages.
Don’t use the flag as part of a costume - that’s reserved for military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations, whose uniforms have small flag patches. Don’t use it as a cape or cloak at your party. You can, however, use the colors of the flag to compose your costume.
How to Properly Care for, Fold and Retire the Flag
Never use the flag as a receptacle to hold, carry, or deliver anything.
The flag cannot touch the ground, floor, water, or anything else beneath it. When lowering it, the rule still applies - it should be received by waiting hands and folded properly for storage. Here’s how to fold it correctly.
Clean and mend the flag whenever necessary.
About cleaning the flag: materials such as nylon and polyester can be machine washed with cold water and detergent, while cotton and wool flags should be cleaned more carefully. For the latter, spot cleaning or dry-cleaning is better - contact your local dry-cleaner, as most of them will dry-clean the flag free of charge.
If the flag ever becomes too worn to be displayed, it should be destroyed by burning it in dignified fashion. A flag burning ceremony is often performed on Flag Day (June 14th), but many Scout Troops and American Legion Posts provide flag burning services.
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