I LOVE the 4th of July. I love the flags and the colors and the patriotism. I love the smell of grills cooking all the way down the street and all the kids dressed up in cute Red, White, and Blue outfits that are dirty and rumpled because they’ve been running around and screaming.
I really like regaling people with my Flag Etiquette facts. These are all direct quotes from the Congressional Joint Resolution on June 22, 1942. and the US Flag Code.
We all know that the flag shouldn’t be out in inclement weather and that it shouldn’t be out at dark or touch the ground but, there are other very specific rules as well.
There are the commonly confused ones:
- When the flag is hung vertically on a wall, window or door the Union (blue) should be to the observer’s left.
- When displayed over a street, it 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, it 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.
And these are the ones that really bug me:
- It should never be used as covering for a ceiling.
- It should never have anything placed on it. (no table cloths or coasters please)
- 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.
- When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
- The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal. (This is a big thing at the Olympics every other year)
- The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
- The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard
- The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
- The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
- The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
If you’re more interested in Flag Etiquette, I recommend this Senate Document clarifying flag regulations. The gist is that most of the rules are voluntary and that the states have the right to add any specific regulations.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of knowledge and now for the dirt. Let me highlight some “improper” products.
Flags should never be disposable and you should never set anything on the flag nor should it be used for carrying or delivering anything. Paper napkins and plates are out as is this tray.
Now, I’m on the fence about this one. On the one hand, you clearly aren’t supposed to wear the flag. On the other, some patriotism is good. It’s a judgement call I suppose.
I’m just going to say it: trashy. Flag undergarments/swimwear are most definitely out.
I suppose I’m a bit of a Flag etiquette stickler but it’s in the blood. My mother has been known to walk into a bank or other building and talk to the manager about the distressing state of a worn flag or to quietly mention to the pastor that the flag is on the wrong side of the alter.
Again with all things, the real crime is in the intentions not in the actual rules. Flag napkins can be fun and patriotic or they can be distasteful and vulgar, it’s all in the intentions.
If you’re interested in more of my thoughts about etiquette, check out this series of etiquette books I wrote in college. I really do have a thing for etiquette!
Happy Independence Day! Take a moment to thank a Veteran either by word or letter for the Freedom you are celebrating today.
There are many “letter” campaigns you can find online but for a more local approach, contact your local VFW branch for a veteran to thank.