American Flag Etiquette – Memorial Day Patriotism

Did you know according to the Flag Code, the U.S. flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing? Since there isn’t anything law enforcement can do when the Flag Code is violated, most people pay no attention to or are simply unaware of American flag etiquette. Traditional observance of Memorial Day seems to have faded in recent years and many Americans may have forgotten the meaning of this holiday. Use this list of Memorial Day American flag etiquette to learn more about this very special holiday.

american flag etiquette
Memorial Day invitation by PurpleTrail.

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.

~Joseph Campbell

Memorial Day 101

Here’s a quick history lesson: Memorial Day was officially proclaimed by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, on May 5, 1868. It was first observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I, the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363). (

American Flag Etiquette

The American flag is a powerful symbol that holds great meaning to many Americans. The American flag represents our freedoms, values, and strengths as a country. Because it is such an important symbol, there’s specific American flag etiquette that must be followed. As you honor American soldiers this Memorial Day, keep these flag flying tips in mind. For a complete listing of U.S. flag etiquette, please click here.

  • On Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half-staff until mid-day. It should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.
  • When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from a window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.
  • When hanging the American flag from a window or draped from the edge of a building, always hang the flag vertically with the field of stars to the left of anyone viewing it.
  • When displaying a flag on the car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
  • Always hang the American flag above any other flag on the same pole.
  • Only display an American flag that is in respectable condition. A torn or tattered flag should not be displayed.
  • All weather flags: most flags are all-weather flags (always refer to the packaging). These are permitted to fly during inclement weather, according to the flag code.
  • The flag may be displayed for 24 hours if properly illuminated after sunset.
  • As a sign of respect to our country and our flag it is proper to place ones hand over heart during a parade or during a flag raising or lowering ceremony. Servicemen and women should give the military salute.
american flag etiquette
This flag was raised over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, 1814, to signal American victory over the British in the Battle of Baltimore; the sight inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Stars and Stripes

Ever wonder what the colors and symbols on the American flag represent? The 13 stripes on the flag represent the 13 original colonies. The stars represent the number of states. The blood red color on the flag symbolizes courage and durability. The white symbolizes purity and innocence. The blue symbolizes justice, vigilance, and perseverance.

History of Old Glory

Old Glory is a common nickname for the American flag. The name originated during the early 1800s when a young New England sea captain, William Driver, was given an American flag to fly aboard his ship throughout his travels at sea.  Driver nicknamed his flag Old Glory. Driver held onto the flag until old age. He remained an avid patriot throughout out his life; and displayed his flag for special occasions, elections, holidays, and his birthday. The popularity of Driver and his flag grew and eventually Americans began using the nickname Old Glory when referring to all American flags.

The American flag is the fourth oldest national flag in the world. It is older than both the French Tricolor flag and the Union Jack of Britain. The American flag was authorized by the Continental Congress on June 4th, 1777. Later in 1949 President Truman officially declared June 4th as Flag Day. The first American flag of 1777 had 13 stars and 13 stripes. One for each colony. It wasn’t until 1818 that President James Monroe signed the Flag Act, which stated there would be 13 stripes and one star for each state. The final star was added to the flag when Hawaii became a state in 1960.

Happy Memorial Day

Hope you enjoyed these American flag etiquette tips and suggestions. Have fun celebrating this special holiday with your friends and loved ones. Remember to pay respect to all of the brave individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting our country. Happy Memorial Day!

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