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Flag Etiquette

Martha Stewart Living, Volume 71 July/August 1999

Here are some tips to make sure your tribute is a respectful one: Display the flag only between sunrise and sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs. The flag may be displayed for twenty-four hours if illuminated in darkness.

- Do not display the flag in inclement weather.

- Whether displaying the flag vertically or horizontally, make sure the canton of stars is visible on the upper left-hand side.

- Do not let the flag touch the ground.

- The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

- Before flying a flag at half-staff, hoist to its peak for an instant before lowering it.

- When displayed against a wall with another flag, their staffs crossed, the American flag should be on the right of the other flag (on the viewer's left), with its staff on top of that of the other flag.

- When flags of states, cities, or localities are flown on the same halyard with the United States flag, the national flag should always be at the top. No other flag should be placed above, or if on the same level, to the flag's right.

- When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they should be flown from separate staffs of equal height. The flags should be of approximately equal size.

- When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle, the canton should be placed at the peak of the staff.

- An unusable flag that is damaged and worn and can no longer be displayed should be destroyed in a dignified way by burning.

- When not on display, the flag should be respectfully folded into a triangle, symbolizing the tricorn hats worn by colonial soldiers in the Revolutionary War.

Comments (5)

  • 1 Jun, 2010

    After you have properly folded the American flag you should end up with a completely blue field of stars showing, a total of 13 stars should show. Representing the 13 original states.

  • 9 Sep, 2008

    If you have an unusable flag but are unable to destroy it by burning, you can take it to your local VFW and they will destroy it for you.

  • 1 Jul, 2008

    OH MY! WESTERNLADY: THE FLAG USED AS A TABLECLOTH, MAKES ME WANT TO CRY. I THINK YOU ARE MORE THAN LIKELY BETTER OFF NOT ATTENDING THAT PERSON'S PARTIES. AND BELIEVE ME A FREAK YOU ARE NOT, PERHAS THE OTHER WOMEN IS.

  • 23 Jun, 2008

    Surely-m, thanks for the information, but I would like to add men, take off your hats, please. Also, do not under any circumstance use the flag as a tablecloth, ever. I have seen this done-yes, with a real flag, not fabric designed for the purpose of a tablecloth-and it just broke my heart. When I politely expressed my disappointment in seeing our flag used in such a manner, I was treated like a freak. Needless to say, I've never been to this person's parties again!

  • 23 May, 2008

    Another extremely important piece of information about the flag (that I am a little surprised not to see here) is that, when a flag is marched past, it is patriotic for an observer to stand and put one's hand over one's heart, or, if one is a veteran, to salute, until the flag has passed; but only if the flag is gold-trimmed. If the flag is not gold-trimmed, it is not necessary to stand or salute.