Flag etiquette dictates how citizens and businesses should care for and display their flags. Flying the American flag means taking part in a proud national tradition. Following proper guidelines is key to flying your flag with respect.
One crucial piece of flag etiquette involves flying the flag at half-staff as a sign of mourning or remembrance. An important part of owning an American flag is knowing when and why we fly flags at half-staff. Learn more about this national tradition with this overview.
The Symbolism of Flying at Half Staff
Lowering the flag to half-staff is a way to remember and respect important figures in America’s history. On certain occasions, this tradition also honors fallen military members. A half-staff flag is a symbol of national mourning. It honors the legacy of America’s leaders and fighters and acknowledges their service to the nation.
When To Fly at Half Staff
There are several reasons and occasions to fly the flag at half-staff, but these holidays are the most common:
- Peace Officers Memorial Day
- Memorial Day (raise the flag to full staff at noon)
- Patriot Day
- Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
- National Firefighters Memorial Day
You should also fly your flag at half-staff for the death of a President, Vice President, Chief Justice, Speaker of the House, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Member of Congress, or a state governor. There are various flag protocols for each of these situations. For example, you should fly the flag at half-staff for 30 days after the death of the President or a former President.
Additionally, Presidents or state governors can order flags to be at half-staff to honor the deaths of national or state figures as they wish. Similarly, leaders might give a half-staff order to honor foreign dignitaries or other influential figures from across the world.
Mourning Without a Mandate
Government buildings and properties must obey flag orders, but private citizens and non-government buildings have a little more freedom regarding when they fly at half-staff. Many citizens will lower their flags to honor and remember local figures, such as teachers, firefighters, or youth leaders.
While there’s no legal penalty for disobeying the Flag Code, following these guidelines helps you treat the flag and all that it represents with respect. The more you know about why we fly the flag at half-staff, the more meaningful the tradition becomes. With these rules in mind, you can participate in a national tradition and honor important individuals and their service to the country.