The Fourth of July is around the corner, and I can almost smell the apple pie and down home cooking. Not really. I will be up here in Canada and will have to enjoy the Fourth from afar, as usual, imagining the parades and the fireworks. The picnic baskets and checkered blankets on the green, green grass of home. Also there will be my favorite color combo aplenty: the old red, white and blue of the American flag. Your flag always looks spectacular, like Martha Stewart personally sews each one. Of course, I've always wondered how to fold an American flag — because I think there might be a special trick to it, and I'm sort of desperate to know.
According to UsFlag.org, a "website dedicated to the Flag of the United States of America," there are a few guidelines to follow:
As an Army and Navy custom, the flag is lowered daily at the last note of retreat. Special care should be taken that no part of the flag touches the ground. The Flag is then carefully folded into the shape of a tri-cornered hat, emblematic of the hats worn by colonial soldiers during the war for Independence. In the folding, the red and white stripes are finally wrapped into the blue, as the light of day vanishes into the darkness of night.
There are a surprising amount of specific customs dedicated solely to the care and keeping of the American flag. For instance, did you know that the flag is never supposed to touch the ground? And that an old flag that no longer represents its country in a dignified manner should never be destroyed, but should be retired (preferably with a retirement ceremony, according to Section 8K of the U.S. Flag Code)?
Ever since 1776, the year Betsy Ross sewed the very first American flag, the old Stars and Stripes has been a symbol for its countrymen. A beacon to follow in difficult times, a reminder of how far the country had come to claim its independence. So one can understand the pomp and circumstance that naturally accompanies the great flag.
This Fourth of July, let your flag fly over your picnic, your parade, your fireworks and cocktails and beaches and cities. And when the day has drawn to a close, fold your flag in the time-honored tradition it so richly deserves (FYI, it's going to take two people so bring a partner):
- Hold the flag waist-high and make sure it is parallel to the ground
- Fold it in half lengthwise, making a gutter when folding just below the grommet to make sure there is no red showing
- Fold it lengthwise again so that the blue field is on the outside
- Make a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner to the folded edge. Make sure it's lined up properly
- Turn the outer point in, taking the triangle you've just folded and making a second triangle (fold parallel to the outer edge)
- Continue the triangle fold, until the entire flag is folded, which should involve 13 folds
- When it's all folded, you should only see a blue field of stars. Tuck the end in to the fold to make sure the flag stays in place.
And now go congratulate yourself for being a steadfast American who treats their flag with respect. That should mean at least an extra piece of apple pie, right?