Flag Day: Celebration of the American Flag

What and When Is Flag Day?

By The Old Farmer's Almanac
Flag Day June 14

Flag Day is an annual holiday that celebrates the history and symbolism of the American flag. Learn about the history of this holiday and the beloved Stars and Stripes!

What is Flag Day?

Flag Day is a celebration of the American flag that occurs each year on the anniversary of the flag’s official adoption, June 14.

What we know fondly as the “Stars and Stripes” was adopted by the Continental Congress as the official American flag on June 14, 1777, in the midst of the Revolutionary War. Colonial troops fought under many different flags with various symbols and slogans: rattlesnakes, pine trees, and eagles; “Don’t Tread on Me,” “Liberty or Death,” and “Conquer or Die,” to name a few.

The first official national flag had 13 white stars on a blue field and 13 alternating red and white stripes—both representing the 13 original colonies. Now there are 50 stars, one for each state in the Union, but the 13 stripes remain. Although many people believe that Betsy Ross designed and sewed the first flag, there is no proof of that. Flag Day was first celebrated in 1877, on the flag’s 100th birthday.

When is Flag Day this Year?

Year Flag Day
2018 Thursday, June 14
2019 Friday, June 14
2020 Sunday, June 14

History of the American Flag

  • January 1, 1776: The first United States flag, the “Grand Union,” was displayed by George Washington. It became the unofficial national flag, preceding the 13-star, 13-stripe version.

  • June 14, 1777: The Stars and Stripes was adopted by the Continental Congress as the Flag of the United States.

  • June 14, 1877: Flag Day was observed nationally for the first time on the 100th anniversary of the Stars and Stripes.

  • June 14, 1937: Pennsylvania became the first state in the United States to celebrate Flag Day officially as a state holiday.

  • July 4, 1960: The new 50-star flag was flown for the first time, and it is the flag that still flies today.

The Grand Union Flag, the original flag of the United States, represented here on a 1968 postal stamp.
The Grand Union Flag, the first unofficial national flag, represented here on a 1968 postage stamp.

Why is the American flag red, white, and blue?

The Continental Congress left no record as to why it chose these colors. However, in 1782, the Congress of the Articles of Confederation chose the colors for the Great Seal of the United States with these meanings: white for purity and innocence; red for valor and hardiness; and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

According to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, the colors originated with the British flag, which is called the Union Jack and was a combination of the Scottish cross of St. Andrew (white on blue) and the English cross of St. George (red on white) at the time. (The modern British flag also incorporates the Irish cross of St. Patrick into its design.)


Where can the American flag be flown 24 hours a day?

There are ten places where flying the flag around the clock is permissible. Do you think you can guess them?

  • The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia
  • The White House
  • The U.S. Capitol
  • The Iwo Jima Memorial to U.S. Marines in Arlington, Virginia
  • The Revolutionary War battleground in Lexington, Massachusetts
  • The site of George Washington’s winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
  • Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland
  • The Jenny Wade House in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (Jenny Wade was the only civilian killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, during the Civil War)
  • The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
  • All customs points of entry into the United States
  • Any US Navy ship that is under way

In truth, the flag may be flown at night anywhere that it may be flown during the day, provided it is properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

American Flag Etiquette

Did you know that there is a proper way to fly the American flag? The U.S. Flag Code is an official set of guidelines (not laws) that dictates how a flag should be flown in order to show it the respect and honor that it deserves. Learn all about American Flag Etiquette here, and be well-prepared to hoist the flag this Flag Day!

Flag Day is just one of many patriotic celebrations in the United States. Learn about George Washington’s birthday in our article on President’s Day, and don’t forget to catch up on your Independence Day history before July 4!

Reader Comments

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The Stars and Stripes

Thank you for sharing the information about the history of the American Stars and Stripes Flag. Your love of your flag proves that you are a nation that is proud of its history. I now begin to appreciate the respect accorded the American Flag by all the citizens. I am sure every little child is taught all the important points about the American Flag from early age.
I wish we people of the African Continent could learn and adopt the best practice regarding our different country flags which are sometimes subjected to unnecessary and meaningless change by the government of the day.
I have an American Flag memento I bought while studying at University of Florida as far back as 1991 - 1994, and I have always cherished it without any knowledge of its historical background and how it should be hoisted. I am really impressed!
Keep this practice up and influence other governments on how to respect our national flags.

Thank you, and God bless!

Flag Day

Flag Day is a forgotten holiday that needs to be brought back to what it used to be a day to be proud to be an American. The last few years I didn't hear it mention on any of the news shows I saw. I remember Flag Day as the last day of school and after we had a ceremony for The Flag we were sent home for the summer, for my family it meant that we left Bridgeport, Connecticut to West Rutland, Vermont where we spent our summers to return on Labour Day and then back to school the next day.