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Certain holidays such as the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Election Day, and (of course) Flag Day remind Americans about the symbolism behind the flag – freedom. Flag day was established in 1923 with printed guidelines that were distributed nationwide. Congress passed a joint resolution on June 22, 1942 to establish the rules surrounding the American flag that American’s know today. Here are just a few: The flag should never touch the ground or other properties such as water or merchandise. The flag should always be carried overhead, and never carried flat. The American flag can never be damaged in any way, so storing it in a way that the flag could be easily torn, soiled, or fastened improperly should always be avoided. We know it can be a bit confusing, so we are here to give you the do’s and don’ts of American flag etiquette and what you need to know when it comes to the U.S. Flag Code

What is the flag code? 

To put it simply, the flag code lists out the mannerisms and processes, known as flag etiquette, for the display and care of the American flag. These are not guidelines, they are federal law under Title 18 of the United states Code.  

General Guidelines for Displaying the Flag

The American flag should always be hoisted briskly and at full-attention. When lowered, it should be lowered ceremoniously. It is customary for the American flag to be flown from sunrise to sunset, however the flag may be flown 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the night time.

  • When the flag is vertically and or horizontally hung, the Union (the blue section) should be to the observers left. This is most commonly seen on a wall, window, or door. 
  • The U.S. flag should always be flown above other flags of the same halyard – for example, flags of states or cities are flown together. 
  • When displayed alongside other flags, the American flag should always be hoisted first and lowered last. Flag etiquette requires that no flag be displayed above or to the right of the American flag.
  • When the American flag is displayed alongside flags of other nations, in times of peace, the two flags must be flown on different staffs of equal height and size. 
  • When the flag is displayed in front of a church or auditorium, it must take the position of honor and be placed to the right of the speaker as he is facing the audience. 
  • On certain holidays or upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government, the flag is to be flown at half-staff. These holidays include Peace Officers Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, Patriot Day, and Pearl Harbor day. The flag etiquette is to first hoist the flag at its peak, then lower to half-staff, and raise it again before it is lowered for the day. 
  • When the flag is covering a casket, the Union (blue section) is to be at the head of the casket and over the left shoulder. It is not to be lowered into the grave or touch the ground. 
  • The flag should only be displayed from a staff when visible on a float or car. 


What Holidays to Display an American Flag 

American’s are always encouraged to display American’s flags everyday – for patriotic effect. As long as the weather is good, your flag can fly high any day of the year. However, certain national holidays require the flag to be displayed:

  • New Year’s Day 
  • Inauguration Day 
  • Martin Luther King Junior’s Birthday 
  • President Lincoln’s & Washington’s Birthdays 
  • Easter Sunday 
  • Mother’s Day 
  • Armed Forces Day 
  • Memorial Day 
  • Flag Day 
  • Father’s Day 
  • Independence Day 
  • Labor Day 
  • Constitution Day 
  • Columbus Day 
  • Navy Day 
  • Veterans Day 
  • Thanksgiving Day 
  • Christmas Day 


How to Dispose of an American Flag 

If your flag is ready to retire it should be destroyed in an honorable and dignified manner. The preferred method of retiring the flag from it’s duties is through burning it. However, on Flag Day (June 14th), American Legions posts will conduct a ceremony for retired flags. You can also contact your local Boy Scouts or Girl Scout troops about retiring your flag. 

Don’t forget to pick up your American flag at our gift shop or online at our store. Come down to visit the Hawai’i Army Museum – it’s free! We are located at 2131 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815 serving both Honolulu and Waikiki. We hope to see you soon. Aloha!