There are three weeks until the Fourth of July, but if you can’t wait til then to celebrate the Stars and Stripes, we have another patriotic holiday for you.
Today is Flag Day, an annual celebration held on June 14 of America’s flag.
The holiday commemorates the adoption of the national flag in 1777 by the Continental Congress. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day, and in 1949, Congress passed legislation establishing it as day of observance. The day inspires parades, essay contests and other community events across the country to show support for America and its service members.
Here are five ways to make your Flag Day particularly meaningful:
1. Learn the proper way to display and handle the flag
Today is actually part of a larger patriotic celebration – Flag Week – during which police stations, fire departments and schools are urged to display the flag and government buildings are required to. Join in by flying the red, white and blue outside your home. Just be aware that flag etiquette requires that no other flag can be flown higher than the national flag and that the flag cannot touch the ground or any surfaces beneath it.
For more guidelines on displaying and handling the national flag, check the US Flag Code.
2. Enjoy a parade
Hundreds of Flag Day parades, concerts and other events are being held across the country to celebrate the holiday. Philadelphia’s annual Stripes and Stars Festival, which also commemorates the US Army’s anniversary, will include a flag-raising ceremony, a parade, a skydiving performance and a naturalization ceremony for new citizens.
Many other cities and towns also are hosting events to commemorate veterans and military families. All these events need volunteers, so it may not be too late to make your Flag Day extra meaningful by pitching in.
3. Visit a history museum
Some history museums have Flag Day-themed programming and exhibitions to contextualize the significance of the holiday. The Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia is debuting a collection of 40 historic 13-star US flags representing the 13 original colonies. The exhibit runs through July 21.
Look into programming at your local museum and educate yourself about the day’s cultural significance.
4. Pay your respects
Visit one of the nation’s 136 veterans’ cemeteries – or maybe a veterans’ memorial or monument – to commemorate fallen soldiers. Well-known sites include The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in New York, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, The American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial in Washington and the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
5. Pick your favorite state or alternative flag
The current US flag, with its 13 stripes and 50 stars, has been around more than 50 years. But before that, people got, uh, creative with their flag interpretations. Check out historic flags and a handful of rejected designs at the online archives of the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum in Abilene, Kansas.
Think flag history is boring? US state flags have all kinds of quirky and surprising origin stories. Consider the California flag, the symbol of a settlers’ revolt in 1846, and Alaska’s flag, designed in 1927 by a 13-year-old boy. To delve deeper into state flag history, check out more origin stories here.