American Flag Etiquette on Memorial Day

In recognition of Memorial Day, we want to highlight some history on this important American holiday, and share some helpful flag-display etiquette.

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day takes place on the last Monday in May to honor and recognize all who have sacrificed in the service of our country. This day was first observed on May 30, 1868 when families used flowers to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The original date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any specific battle – and so could represent all.

Memorial Day was observed on May 30th for decades, until in 1968 Congress declared Memorial Day a federal holiday that would be celebrated the last Monday in May. By choosing a “standing” Monday holiday, Memorial Day created a three-day weekend for much of America’s workforce.

With its place on our calendar, Memorial Day unofficially marks the start of the summer season. With holiday parades, cookouts and the anticipation of summer, Memorial Day weekend is a time when family and friends gather and red, white and blue are the colors-du-jour. If your home has an American Flag, be sure it’s displayed in all of its glory to commemorate this important day of remembrance.

Here are some general rules to know and follow when hanging your Flag on Memorial Day:

First, if you display your flag from a traditional flagpole, keep your flag at half-mast until noon and then raise it all the way to the top until sunset. If you choose to keep your flag displayed after dark, it should always be well illuminated.

Next, if you display your flag from a pole on the side of your house or porch, always be sure that the blue (union) section of the flag is at the peak of the staff.

Some of us choose to display our flags on an outside fence or building – or even an inside wall. In these cases, the blue (union) section should always be at the top left corner. We are all hoping for sunshine this weekend – but in the case of rain – your flag should only be displayed if it is all-weather.

Lastly, if you choose to display your American Flag on the same halyard as additional flags (such as a state flag or yacht club burgee), the American Flag should always be at the top.

Enjoy time with your family and friends this Memorial Day while remembering the spirit of this commemorative holiday.