How to Handle the Flag of the United States of America
As Independence Day approaches, the opportunity may arise to purchase and setup an American flag. Unfortunately, many people inadvertently mishandle the flag. Take this opportunity to learn and practice handling the flag of the United States of America properly and with care, and teach your children about the flag. The vexillologists (flag experts) and veterans out there will thank you.
A Brief History of the Flag
Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the first flag for the U.S. in May of 1776. The original U.S. flag with thirteen stars was adopted on June 14th of 1777, making it the fourth oldest national flag in the world! The current version was adopted on July 4, 1960, after Hawaii, our 50th state was added to the Union.
The Meaning of the Flag
For over 200 years now, the American flag has symbolized the unity and strength of the country. In other words, one can also say that it is a source of inspiration and pride for citizens.
Today, the flag is comprised of 13 horizontal stripes, where seven red stripes and six white stripes are arranged horizontally in an alternating pattern. The stripes that you find in the American flag symbolize the original thirteen colonies, which are rays of light from the sun, and the stars symbolize the fifty states. On top of that, each of the colors that has been used in the flag has its own significance. For instance, the red color represents valor and hardiness while the white color stands for innocence and purity. Last, but not least, the blue color symbolizes justice, insistence, and alertness.
Caring for the Flag
Due to the profound symbolism and history embodied in our national flag, caring for it is a symbolic act. If you treat the flag well, it is a way of showing respect for the country. If you treat a flag incorrectly, it can demonstrate disrespect.
According to the United States Code, an official compilation of Federal laws, "The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” So, while we are thinking of how to show our regard for the symbolism of the flag, we may also consider the Golden Rule: We should treat it as a living symbol of many people and many virtues and honor it as we would hope to be honored.
How to Store the American Flag
There is a correct way to fold the American Flag. The process of folding it is a ceremony intended to allow for reflection on our nation and those who are a part of it. The proper way to fold the flag is a process that every American should be aware of. Take note that the flag should never touch the ground.
Below are the basic directions for folding and storing the flag. This will take at least two people. Note that each fold in this process has a special significance. If you’re folding a flag together as a family, make a point to teach your children what each fold symbolizes, too. You can find the specific meanings of each fold listed in this article.
Pull all four corners out wide to present the flag.
Fold in half the long way, then fold in half again, making sure that the union of the stars remains on the outside.
Bring the striped corner of the folded edge toward the open edge to start forming a triangle shape.
Fold triangle over triangle until the the other end is almost reached. Then fold a triangle from the other side and tuck in that flap.
You should be left with a triangle that looks a bit like a cocked hat, and no red should be showing.
Cleaning the Flag
As with all material items, your flag eventually will need upkeep. Flags should be cleaned and mended periodically, but will eventually need to be retired.
Retiring a Flag
The practice of burning a flag as a respectful means of disposal is known by many, but understood by few. The flag should be folded ceremoniously and placed in a large fire. All witnesses should be respectful and offering a moment of silent reflection. Standard safety practices and all local and state fire ordinances should be followed.
How to Display the Flag
Due to the ceremonious nature of displaying the American flag, several practices should be observed:
The flag is typically raised at 0800 (8 a.m.) and is raised quickly and intentionally. The flag is then lowered slowly and ceremoniously at sunset. If a flag is flown 24/7, it should have lights shining on it during the night.
During both the hoisting and lowering of the flag, observers stand silently and reflectively until the flag is no longer attached to the flagpole.
While displayed, the flagpole remains erect, and the flag is not dipped towards anyone or anything.
The flag should be displayed with the blue union field up; displaying a flag upside down is officially recognized as a distress signal. Flying the American flag upside when there is no emergency or state of war is considered desecration of the flag.
In times of mourning, such as the passing of principal figure of U.S. government, the flag will be flown at “half-staff” or “half-mast.” There are also several days throughout the year when the flag is flown at half-staff, such as on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7th) and Patriot Day (September 11th). To place a flag at half-staff, raise the flap to the top of the flagpole, then slowly lower it to halfway between the top and the bottom of the pole.
If you have further questions about following flag code, here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
There are many rules for handling the American flag properly, and while they may seem overwhelming, this is a way to show our respect for a nation whose authority God has placed us under. As the Paul teaches in 1 Peter 2:13-17,
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
As you celebrate Independence Day, make a point to cultivate an awareness of these human traditions, that by them you and your family can more completely honor and glorify God.
At Enlightium Academy, we teach the importance of honoring God by being good citizens, which is why our curriculum includes a civics course, in which students learn about America’s government and its relationship to the world from a Christian worldview. If you’re interested in learning more about our online christian homeschooling options for your child, click on the button below.