Flag Day is June 14: Brush Up on Flag Etiquette

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Jun 12, 2013 | Chaya Kurtz

A sometimes forgotten holiday, Flag Day is June 14th. Quite a few folks have probably thought about flying an American flag at their houses, but have never tried it. Where does a person even buy a flag?  In what ways is it acceptable to decorate with the American flag? We've answered common flag etiquette questions to help you to prepare for Flag Day and Independence Day.

Flags fly appropriately on staffs. Photo by summersetretrievers/istockphoto.com

Q. Where can I fly a flag at my house?

A. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, it is proper to fly a flag at home either on a staff, or displayed flat. By "displayed flat", we mean hanging vertically, rather than horizontally or on an angled staff. The proper way to hang a flag flat is to position the flag so that the stars are on the upper left corner. Whether you fly the flag on a staff or if you display the flag flat, it should be free to move in the wind. It is not considered proper etiquette to, for instance, bolt down the corners of the flag.

Q. Can I use a flag as decoration, such as a tablecloth?

A. According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, no, you can't use an American flag as decoration. They recommend using a "bunting" as decoration, with the blue stripe at the top (not the red stripe). If you want to have a patriotic tablecloth, the flag authorities advise using a patriotic-print tablecloth, not an actual flag. Using a an actual flag as a tablecloth is considered to be disrespectful, as is using an American flag as drapery or bedding.

Q. Can I fly my flag at home at night?

A. According to the flag experts, the flag must always be illuminated. So yes, you can leave it up at night, but it must have a light pointed at it. If you fly a flag flat, hung from windows, the best place to fly it would be above the porch light. That way, it will be illuminated at night. Just remember to turn on the porch light at sundown! Or go big: Have an electrician install a custom floodlight for your flag.

Q. Where can I store an American flag at home?

A. According to the flag experts, it is proper flag etiquette to store your flag somewhere clean, free of excess moisture, and not on the ground. It's considered disrespectful to store the flag anywhere where it could be dirtied or damaged.

Q. Where can I buy a flag?

A. If you're looking for something basic, large home and garden stores usually will have what you want. If you are looking for something specific, pretty much every make, model, style, and size of American flag is available online. Whether you want a high quality contemporary nylon flag, or if you are looking for a reproduction of an historical flag, you can find it online. Some interesting sources of flags: ARTFLAG is a unionized flag maker in NYC that makes and sells American flags in every size. If you need a huge or custom-sized flag, they are a good source. Gettysburg Flag Works sells 100% made in the USA flags and flag pole sets. They offer flags in pretty much every size and material imaginable. Bear in mind that cheap nylon flags tend to be printed. If you are looking for the highest quality flag, be sure to purchase a flag with embroidered stars and sewn stripes. Custom Flag Company makes and sells flags made by craftsmen in Denver. They seem to have high standards for flag manufacturing.

Q. I have a state flag/city flag/other flag that I want to hang in a display with my American flag. How do I fly other flags in a display with an American flag?

A. If you are flying the flags on a single pole, the American flag has to be at the top, above all the other flags. If you are flying flags on individual poles in a group, the flags should all be about the same size (definitely not larger than the American flag). The American flag must be placed to the right of the other flags, and no other flag should stand higher than it.

Happy Flag Day, everyone! Have a blast with all your patriotic decorating!

Chaya Kurtz writes for Networx.com.

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