Flag Day 2013 Is Today: Know Your US History; What Is The Proper Way To Display The Stars And Stripes? [VIDEO]
Flag Day 2013 is today, and it's time to give the hallowed Stars and Stripes, an emblem of our American roots, a little love. Certainly, in a year that has witnessed the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing, Flag Day represents the union of all Americans against tyranny and oppression both at home and abroad, just as it did 200 years ago.
The history of the Stars and Stripes is as deep-rooted as American independence itself. U.S. freedom and Old Glory, like apple pie and Thanksgiving, are intrinsically linked.
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At the time the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, however, the American flag as we know it today, with its red- and white-striped fly and its blue and star-speckled canton, didn't exist. Instead, colonial patriots, embittered over England's stronghold on American settlements, mobilized around flags of various design. According to history.com, early American flag iterations included one with a picture of a coiled rattlesnake and the slogan "Don't Tread On Me," and another showed a pine tree with the words "An Appeal to Heaven" scribed on it.
It wasn't until two years later, in 1777, that an American flag similar to the one we know today came about. On June 14 of that year, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution mandating that the flag representing the U.S. have 13 alternating stripes and that the union have 13 stars, "white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."
Still, individuals rarely flew the U.S. flag. It was mostly used for naval purposes. After the Revolutionary War, however, and especially following the Civil War of 1861, the Stars and Stripes gradually gained momentum as a powerful symbol of American unity.
"This is the beginning of what some people call the cult of the flag, the almost religious feeling that many Americans have for the red, white and blue," Marc Leepson, author of the book "Flag: An American Biography," told history.com.
Fast-forward to today, when flag culture is ubiquitous. While the U.S. flag has surely taken up a prominent role in the American zeitgeist, according to some people, flag etiquette is waning. USA Today reports that one school board member in Florida was so peeved by students' declining understanding of flag etiquette that he petitioned school board members to develop an in-house guide for school administrators on teaching flag custom.
Even HGTV, the popular how-to home improvement network, caught slack for flag irreverence after the network, in a segment on Fourth of July Celebrations, recommended using an American flag as a tablecloth.
"Drape a large American flag over the table as a bright and festive table runner," HGTV suggested.
So what is the right way to display an American flag on Flag Day 2013?
According to the U.S. Flag Code, the federal law established in 1942 outlining the proper handling of the American flag, Old Glory should be "hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously."
Here are five tips (by no means a complete, authoritative guide) for displaying the U.S. flag. Use these as a quick how-to reference for Flag Day 2013, or see the U.S. Flag Code for complete guide to flag handling.
Only display the flag from sunrise to sunset. When a flag is displayed in the open on a building or flagstaff, it should only be seen during daylight hours. But, if you want to be a super-patriot and keep the flag flying at night, just make sure you have it properly illuminated with a spotlight.
Fringes on the flag or ornaments on the flag staff are O.K. According to the U.S. Flag Code, there is no written guideline restricting the use of a finial, like a small engraving of an eagle, on the staff or of fringe on the flag.
Don't put the flag up if it's raining. The flag should not be raised on days of inclement weather, unless you have an all-weather flag. This goes hand-in-hand with the stipulation that the flag should not be allowed to get torn, soiled or damaged.
If you're in extreme danger or in dire distress, you can hang the flag upside-down. Any other time, however, is disrespectful.
Don't wear the flag as a costume. In the eyes of the U.S. government, the flag is a "living" thing, and should not be worn. Flag lapels, however, are fine.
Still a bit in over your head? Here are some instructional videos, uploaded to YouTube, on proper flag handling.
Happy Flag Day!
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