U.S. Flag Etiquette, Rules, and Guidelines

How to Properly Display the American Flag

June 12, 2019
American Flag Flowing
Pixabay

Many of our readers ask about American flag etiquette and the U.S. Flag Code. Here is a list of rules and guidelines for displaying the American flag and treating it with proper respect.

Honoring the Flag Code

On June 22, 1942, Congress passed a joint resolution, later amended on December 22, 1942, that encompassed what has come to be known as the U.S. Flag Code. 

Perhaps the most important guideline involves how citizens should behave around the Stars and Stripes: The flag of the United States is the emblem of our identity as a sovereign nation, which the United States of America has been for more than 200 years.

Therefore, members of the armed services and veterans are asked to stand at attention and salute when their flag is passing in a parade or being hoisted or lowered; civilians should place their right hand over their heart.

When to Display the American Flag

The flag is a symbol of respect, honor, and patriotism. It may be displayed on any day of the year according to the following guidelines:

  • The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement.

  • The custom is to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on flagstaffs in the open, but it may be displayed at night—if illuminated—to produce a patriotic effect.

  • The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on:

        New Year’s Day, January 1
        Inauguration Day, January 20
        Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, third Monday in January
        Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12
        Washington’s Birthday, third Monday in February
        Easter Sunday (variable)
        Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May
        Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May
        Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May
        Flag Day, June 14
        Father’s Day, third Sunday in June
        Independence Day, July 4
        Labor Day, first Monday in September
        Constitution Day, September 17
        Columbus Day, second Monday in October
        Navy Day, October 27
        Veterans Day, November 11
        Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November
        Christmas Day, December 25
        and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States
        the birthdays of States (date of admission)
        and on State holidays.

  • The flag should be displayed at every public institution and in or near every polling place on election days, and at schoolhouses during school days.

American flag

How to Properly Display the American Flag

As a symbol of the country and its people, the flag should be treated with respect and be honored when on display. In order to treat the flag with the dignity it deserves, the following display guidelines are recommended.

General Guidelines for Displaying the Flag:

  • When the flag is hung vertically on a wall, window, or door, the Union (blue section) should be to the observer’s left. When the flag is hung either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the Union should be to the observer’s left.

  • In a procession, the American flag should be to the right (the flag’s own right) of any other flag or, if in a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.

  • When displayed from a staff projecting from a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff.

  • When the flag is displayed otherwise than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out; or so suspended that its folds fall as freely as though the flag were staffed.

  • When displayed over a street, the flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street.

  • On a platform, the flag should be above and behind the speaker, with the union uppermost and to the observer’s left.

  • When displayed from a staff in a church or auditorium, the flag should occupy the position of honor and be placed at the speaker’s right as he faces the audience.

  • When the flag is used to cover a casket, the union should be at the head and over the left shoulder.

Hoisting and Lowering the Flag:

  • The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

  • When flown at half-staff, the flag should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to half-staff position. It should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. Half-staff is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag must be flown at half-staff on all buildings on the death of any officer listed below, for the period indicated:

    • For the President or a former President: 30 days from the date of death.
    • For the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives: 10 days from the day of death.
    • For an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives: From the day of death until interment.
    • For a United States Senator, Representative, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico: the flag should be flown in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia, on the day of death and on the following day; in the state, congressional district, territory, or commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, from the day of death until interment.
    • For a Governor: Within the state, territory, or possession, from the day of death until interment.

Displaying the American Flag on a Vehicle:

  • The flag should not be displayed on a float except from a staff, nor draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle.

  • When the flag is displayed on a vehicle, the staff should be fixed firmly to the chassis.

Displaying the American Flag Alongside Other Flags:

  • In the United States, no other flag should be placed above the American flag or, if they are to be placed on the same level, to the right of the American flag.

  • The United Nations flag may not be displayed above or in a position of superior prominence to the United States flag except at United Nations Headquarters.

  • The flag, when displayed with another against a wall—both from crossed staffs—should be on the right (the flag’s own right), and its staff should be in front of the other staff.

  • The American flag should be at the center and the highest point when displayed with a group of state flags.

  • When flags of states, cities, etc., are flown on the same halyard, the American flag should be at the peak.

  • When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height, and the American flag should be hoisted first and lowered last.

American Flags

How Not to Display the American Flag

The flag and its likeness should be treated with respect. Its image should not be cheapened or tarnished by improper use.

  • The flag should not be dipped to any person or thing, including government officials—even the President.

  • The flag should never be displayed with the union (stars) down, unless as a signal of dire distress.

  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

  • The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

  • The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored so that it might be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

  • The flag should never be used as covering for a ceiling.

  • The flag should never have anything placed on it.

  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose, nor embroidered on cushions or handkerchiefs, printed on paper napkins or boxes, nor used as any portion of a costume.

How to Properly Dispose of an American Flag

  • When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified and ceremonious fashion, preferably by burning.

  • Most American Legion posts will conduct an annual ceremony, often on Flag Day (June 14) to retire old or worn flags; contact your local chapter if you are not able to dispose of the flag yourself. You could also ask your local Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts troops about retiring your flag.

Any Questions?

Do you have a question regarding displaying or respecting the American flag? Ask us in the comments below!

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Reader Comments

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Are there guidelines on when

Are there guidelines on when flying a flag at half mast is *TOO LONG*?

For example, the death of a civilian, family lowers flag to half mast and intend to keep it that way forever.

They have even duck taped the pole to prevent anyone from raising it or lowering it.

I do not think this is healthy or respectful

The Flag should only be flown

The Flag should only be flown at half-mast at the directive of the President, Governor, Mayor, etc. In other words, it is improper to fly the Flag at half-mast if it is not directed at the general population.

There are other fitting tributes to honor someone else, but they should not dishonor the Flag while trying to honor someone else.

Only the President or the

Only the President or the Governor can authorize a US Flag at half staff, that's it nobody else, including Mayors etc.

Yes, very spcific guidelines

Yes, very spcific guidelines in the code! US Pres 30 days after death. Others, less time.

"For example, the death of a civilian, family lowers flag to half mast and intend to keep it that way forever.

They have even duck taped the pole to prevent anyone from raising it or lowering it.

I do not think this is healthy or respectful"

Correct, improper, and unhealthy.

The person who flew this flag

The person who flew this flag has replaced it with the correct Flag.

When the honor guard is

When the honor guard is entering the room at a funeral with the American flag, organization banner and two riffles. The American flag enters first then the riffles and banner to be posted, correct? The riffles don't come first then the American flag. Can you please let me know and also where to find the information. Thank you Wendy

"Correct?" is correct.

"Correct?" is correct.

I think to pay respect to

I think to pay respect to our flag we need these guideline . . . and who knows when a mistake happens and ruin everything . . . for picture frames u may visit . . . http://www.almanac.com/content...

This are great guidelines. We

This are great guidelines. We should learn to respect our flag as it represent our country's pride and liberty. Patriotism is not purely passion, it is a social responsibility.

I have a question about

I have a question about displaying the flag in a war zone on my compound that I am at in Afghanistan. I raised the flag today in a small ceremony for the first flag displayed at our compound, we can not put a light out at night to illuminate it at night because of air traffic around, and we all have a difficult time about displaying it at night with out disrespecting the colors. Is there a rule or some kind of guidance that you can help us with. We also do not want to take it down and put it up every day do to the missions that are all over, please give some guidance...SSG Bain out..

you are in a combat zone, so

you are in a combat zone, so it is appropriate to fly the flag 24/7 unless command orders otherwise.

There is usually enough ambient light in an active compound to see the flag. Since the flag is visible you do not need a special light.

also common sense dictates you do not want to make an easy target, so no light please.

hope this helps.

There is a place in my home

There is a place in my home town who has the American Flag out in front of their business and attached to the back of our glorious flag is the Mexican flag. I was wondering if that is even legal. It is extremely irritating to me and I personally find it very disrespectful. So I would like to know if it is illegal. Thanks

I am not sure why I felt

I am not sure why I felt compelled to do this but when my husband put up my flag pole as I have been asking for many years now he asked me which way to place the pully and I just said to the North of course. I don't know that this is proper etiquitte and it's too late now that it's cemented in place but is this proper? I did make sure he placed it to the left of our main entrance and that there is a street light illuminating it until I can get the spot light I need to illuminate it properly and so that I can fly it 24/7 as I have a great deal of pride in my country and I do not believe I should have to take it down and put it up every single day. Another question I have is on Memorial Day when it is to be flown at half mast but it is already flying do I then lower it and briskly raise it to the peak then to half mast or do I just lower it to half mast? Thank you.

Kathy, you are correct

Kathy,

you are correct about hoisting the flag on Memorial Day, however, it is not termed 'half mast', but 'half staff' as a mast is on a ship. A Staff is a land based flagpole.

Half-staff in the code, half

Half-staff in the code, half mast on ships, yep. UNLESS the US FLag is not on a mast, then it is on a staff.

We have an Irish Pub and want

We have an Irish Pub and want to have Irish flags along the outside of the building to draw attention. Is it disrespectful to hang only the Irish flags as they will be up very high and we will not be able to take down at night or provide lighting for the American flag?

You arent direspecting the US

You arent direspecting the US FALg if you are only diplaying other flags. But IF you post an American Flag, follow the code. Light it up!

I wish you would put a way to

I wish you would put a way to share this article on Facebook. I cant copy and paste this from my phone.

sharing flag tips on facebook

The Editors's picture

Hi Karen, Many thanks for writing. There is a Facebook button at the top of this article (and all our articles). Please let us know if this is not working for you! Thanks, the OFA editors

I live in a manufactured home

I live in a manufactured home development. We plan to display the American Flag on the properties of our street during holiday periods. The flags are 12"x18" and attached to a 32" pole which will be put into ground so as the flag does not touch the ground. Is it proper to leave these flags overnight without lighting? We were hoping to leave the flags flown for the entire week of the holiday.

Thanks for your help

Bill

The flag should be raised

The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

Do we have to.lower our flags

Do we have to.lower our flags for someone that had not served the country?

The president will proclaim

The president will proclaim when the flag needs to be at half staff. Here is a link to where you can find those.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/brie...

I have had the honors of

I have had the honors of being ask to lead the Pledge od Alegence to our montthly meetings of the residents. We have a new President of the Residents Association. I Have been movimng the flag to the right and in front of the podiam for each meeting. Shortly after the meeting came to order I lead the group in the Pledge of Alegence and a Lady Lead the group in the National Antham. The flag was moved to the back of the podiam. Is this proper?

It is not improper, but

It is not improper, but unnecessary. Honors to the flag can be rendered in any proper position it is placed.

The flag, if on its own

The flag, if on its own stand, should stay to the right of the podium throughout all proceedings. No one should be moving the flag, unless they come into the room holding in a waste holster.

We live in an older home 1760

We live in an older home 1760 and we fly the Grand Union flag. I would like to add the Betsy Ross Flag to the pole which flag should be flown the highest? I would like to fly both flags but do want to do it according to flag etiquette.

I just purchased a home, I

I just purchased a home, I served in the AF for 4 years and Army for 6. I hang an all weather flag and placed it on the left (facing my house, far right looking out of the house) I am not really sure about the height of the inclined pole from the floor. Is it supposed to be half height of the house. If you know please let me know. I want to make sure I an displaying it accordingly and respectfully. Thank you

The pole should not be on any

The pole should not be on any incline, it should be plumb. Height compared to any structure is not an issue and is not in the code as being an issue. As high as your local authorities will allow (for safety).

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