Flag Day 2021: Celebrating the American Flag

Learn the History of Flag Day and the Stars and Stripes!

June 10, 2021
Flag Day June 14

Flag Day is Monday, June 14! This annual holiday 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—rattlesnakes, pine trees, and eagles—and slogans—”Don’t Tread on Me,” “Liberty or Death,” and “Conquer or Die,” to name a few.

The Declaration of Independence made the adoption of an American flag necessary. Previously, each colony or special interest had its own flag.

On the 14th of June, Congress made the following resolution: “The flag of the United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white on a blue field …” Official announcement of the new flag was not made until Sept. 3, 1777. 

Who Made the First American Flag?

The origins of the Stars and Stripes have become part of American folklore. Although many people believe that Betsy Ross designed and sewed the first flag, there is no true proof of this. However, records do indicate that she made ensigns and pennants for the Philadelphia navy during the war. Various towns in colonial America have claimed to be the birthplace of the Stars and Stripes.

Based on colonial folklore, it has also been stated that the American flag was first flown in battle during the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge in 1777. This may also be the stuff of legend.

However, what we do know is this: 

The first American flag was designed to represent the 13 original colonies with 13 white stars on a blue field and 13 alternating red and white stripes.

One of the first flag designs had the stars arranged in a circle, based on the idea that all colonies were equal.

In 1818, after a few design changes, the United States Congress decided to retain the flag’s original 13 stripes and add new stars to reflect each new state that entered the union.

Today, there are 50 stars, one for each state in the union, but the 13 stripes remain.

When Is Flag Day?

Flag Day, celebrated annually on June 14, is not an official federal holiday, but its observance is traditionally proclaimed each year by the president of the United States. On Flag Day, many towns and cities hold parades and events to celebrate the flag, and the colors are to be flown at all government buildings.

Flag Day Dates

Year Flag Day
2021 Monday, June 14
2022 Tuesday, June 14
2023 Wednesday, June 14
2024 Friday, 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 were 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—and continues today. 

  • 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—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
  • 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.)


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!

Where May the American Flag be Flown 24 Hours a Day?

The flag is usually taken indoors at night out of respect, but there are some places where flying the flag around the clock is permissible. Do you think you can guess them?

  1. The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia
  2. The White House
  3. The U.S. Capitol
  4. The Iwo Jima Memorial to U.S. Marines in Arlington, Virginia
  5. The Revolutionary War battleground in Lexington, Massachusetts
  6. The site of George Washington’s winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
  7. Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland
  8. The Jenny Wade House in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (Jenny Wade was the only civilian killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, during the Civil War)
  9. The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
  10. All customs points of entry into the United States
  11. 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 that it is properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

Learn More

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


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

"Flag Day 2021: Celebrating the American Flag," January 14, 2021

Dear Editors,
In an earlier comment, I incorrectly stated that Charles Thomson was the consultant to the third Great Seal of the United States Committee. William Barton was the third consultant. However, both men did work on the U.S. Great Seal after the third Committee finished its work. I deeply apologize for the error. Earl P. Williams, Jr., U.S. flag historian (paleovexillologist)

"Flag Day 2021: Celebrating the American Flag," January 14, 2021

Dear Editors:
Thank you for setting the record straight on Betsy Ross' contribution to the Revolutionary War. The following is FYI: (1) Continental Congressman Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey designed a flag for the United States and a flag for the U.S. Navy. Ironically, the latter flag became the prototype for the National flag. (2) Prior to Hopkinson's designs, the unofficial U.S. flag had 13 red-and-white stripes with the British Union Jack in the upper-left-hand corner (canton). It was called the Continental Colors, aka, the Grand Union Flag. (3) Red, white, and blue are traditional British colors. The U.S. Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777, did not indicate what the colors mean. The presumed meaning of red, white, and blue in the American flag really applies to the Great Seal of the United States. (4) The arrangement of 13 stars in a ring in early U.S. flags did not symbolize the equality of states vis-a-vis each other. Instead, it denoted the perpetuity and eternity of America, according to Charles Thomson, the consultant to the third Great Seal of the United States Committee. A ring denotes eternity. Earl P. Williams, Jr., U.S. flag historian (paleovexillologist)

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.