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How to Respectfully Fold the American Flag

Did you know that each fold has a symbolic meaning?


The American flag is most commonly flown on holidays such as Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veteran's Day, but it can be flown from sunrise to sunset on any day of the year. When not on display, it should be respectfully folded into a triangular shape. This triangle is emblematic of the three-cornered hats worn by Colonial soldiers in the Revolutionary War. The flag is folded in such a way to represent the original thirteen colonies of the United States, and each individual fold also carries its own meaning. Here's how to do so as dictated by the American Legion:


[LEARN: The 12 Rules of American Flag Etiquette]

Step 1

Hold the flag waist high and parallel to the ground, keeping the tension in the fabric at all times. It takes two people to do it properly, as the flag should never touch the ground during any lowering or folding. 


Step 2

Fold the flag in half lengthwise, bringing the striped lower section over the canton (which is the blue field of stars) and holding the edges together.


Step 3

Fold it again lengthwise, bringing the canton to the outside.


Step 4

Start a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge up to meet the open edge. The outer point is then turned inward to form a second triangle. Continue folding the flag in this manner until the entire length is folded.


Step 5

Tuck the remaining flap into the slot formed between the stars and stripes. This last step, which brings the red and white stripes into the canton, symbolizes the day's light vanishing into the darkness of the night.


Symbols for Each Fold in the Flag


The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.


The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.


The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.


The fourth fold represents our weaker nature; as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace, as well as in times of war, for His divine guidance.


The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong."


The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.


The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.


The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.


The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first born.


The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.


When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, "In God We Trust."


Now, watch Martha demonstrate how to fold the flag: