Flag Day

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Flag Day

Flag Day, anniversary of the adoption of the American flag in 1777. It is celebrated on June 14 but is not a legal holiday.
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Flag Day

Type of Holiday: Historic
Date of Observation: June 14
Where Celebrated: United States
Symbols and Customs: American Flag, Betsy Ross
Colors: Red, white, and blue (see AMERICAN FLAG )
Related Holidays: Fourth of July, Memorial Day


During the early battles of the American Revolution, the rebels fought under the flags of their individual colonies or local militia companies. The first "national" flag, often referred to as the Grand Union Flag, was first flown on New Year's Day in 1776 to celebrate the formation of the Continental Army. It had thirteen alternating red and white stripes, representing the thirteen colonies, and a canton, or square area, showing the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew, representing Great Britain. It served as a symbol of many Americans' hope that eventually the colonies could reconcile their differences with Britain.

The Continental Congress didn't adopt a design for an official national flag until June 14, 1777, almost a year after the Declaration of Independence was signed, and it was still two or three years before the new flag was widely used. Tradition generally credits BETSY ROSS with making the original thirteen-stars-and- thirteenstripes banner, but there are several contradictory theories that attribute its creation to such individuals as John Paul Jones, the American naval hero, and Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration. When Kentucky and Vermont were admitted to the Union in 1794, the number of stars and stripes was increased to fifteen. But in 1818 Congress voted to restore the original thirteen stripes and to add a new star for each new state on the FOURTH OF JULY following its admission. Alaska and Hawaii were the forty-ninth and fiftieth stars, added in 1959.

Flag Day is a holiday that commemorates a significant historical event. Peoples throughout the world commemorate such significant events in their histories through holidays and festivals. Often, these are events that are important for an entire nation and become widely observed. The marking of such anniversaries serve not only to honor the values represented by the person or event commemorated, but also to strengthen and reinforce communal bonds of national, cultural, or ethnic identity. Victorious, joyful, and traumatic events are remembered through historic holidays. The commemorative expression reflects the original event through festive celebration or solemn ritual. Reenactments are common activities at historical holiday and festival gatherings, seeking to bring the past alive in the present.

The first Flag Day observance didn't take place until June 14, 1861, almost a century after the official adoption of the flag's design. William T. Kerr, who lived in Pittsburgh and later in Philadelphia, is recognized by many as the person responsible for promoting the observance of this day. He began his campaign when he was still a schoolboy, and his enthusiasm never waned. He lobbied government leaders and did everything he could to bring Flag Day to the attention of the American public.

It was President Woodrow Wilson who first issued a proclamation in 1916 establishing June 14 as Flag Day. President Calvin Coolidge issued a similar proclamation in 1927, but it didn't become an official holiday until Congress and President Harry Truman made it one in 1949. Only Pennsylvania observes this day as a legal holiday, but other states acknowledge its importance by displaying the AMERICAN FLAG on homes, businesses, and public buildings. Other popular ways of observing Flag Day include flag-raising ceremonies, the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, which was written by James B. Upham and Francis Bellamy in 1892. Schools and community centers often hold special programs designed to instill pride in the flag-especially after the way it was treated during American involvement in the Vietnam War (1964-75), when flag-burning and other acts of desecration were common as a means of expressing antiwar sentiments.


American Flag

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress replaced the British symbols of the Grand Union flag with a new design featuring thirteen white stars in a circle on a field of blue and thirteen red and white stripes. Although it is not certain, this flag may have been made by Philadelphia seamstress BETSY ROSS . As the committee that had been formed to oversee the design of the new flag described it, the stars represented the constellation of the State rising in the West, and the blue background stood for the virtues of vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The circle formed by the stars symbolized the perpetuity of the Union, and the thirteen stripes stood for the original thirteen colonies. The red symbolized the newly formed country's defiance and daring, while the white symbolized purity or liberty.

The American flag, traditionally considered a symbol of patriotism and dedication to American ideals, is actually one of the oldest national emblems-even older than Great Britain's Union Jack. Its appearance has been changed 26 times, mostly to accommodate the admission of new states. The Easton Area Public Library in Pennsylvania has what it claims is the very first "Stars and Stripes," predating the Betsy Ross flag and others by almost a year. They say it was first displayed on July 8, 1776, during a public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Easton, and that it was made by the women of Easton. It is eight feet long and four feet wide.

Flag Day is also a time for the study of flag etiquette, which dictates that the flag should only be allowed to fly after sunrise and before sunset. When it is raised or lowered, it must not touch the ground or the deck of a ship, and it must be saluted by everyone present. When it is being placed at half-mast for the dead, it must be hoisted first to the top of the staff, then lowered into place. When it passes on parade, spectators should stand if they are seated, stop if they are walking, and uncover their heads, giving it their full attention. Nothing should ever be placed on the flag or attached to it, and it should never be used for decorative or advertising purposes.

Betsy Ross

Very little is actually known about the woman who is widely believed to have made the first AMERICAN FLAG . The only facts that have been substantiated are that she was an upholsterer living in Philadelphia during the American Revolution and that she had already made several Pennsylvania naval flags of unknown design, as well as flags for Revolutionary War troops. Her home at 239 Arch Street in Philadelphia is now a national shrine.


Christianson, Stephen G., and Jane M. Hatch. The American Book of Days. 4th ed. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2000. Dunkling, Leslie. A Dictionary of Days. New York: Facts on File, 1988. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. McSpadden, J. Walker. The Book of Holidays. New York: Crowell, 1958. Schaun, George and Virginia, and David Wisniewski. American Holidays and Special Days. 3rd ed. Lanham: Maryland Historical Press, 2002. Trawicky, Bernard, and Ruth W. Gregory. Anniversaries and Holidays. 5th ed. Chicago: American Library Assocation, 2000. Van Straalen, Alice. The Book of Holidays Around the World. New York: Dutton, 1986.


National Flag Day Foundation www.flagday.org Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine U.S. National Park Service www.nps.gov/fomc
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Flag Day

June 14
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress replaced the British symbols of George Washington's Grand Union flag with a new design featuring 13 white stars in a circle on a field of blue and 13 red and white stripes—one for each state. Although it is not certain, this flag may have been made by the Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross who was an official flagmaker for the Pennsylvania Navy. The number of stars increased as the new states entered the Union, but the number of stripes stopped at 15 and was later returned to 13.
President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that established June 14 as Flag Day in 1916, but it didn't become official until 1949. This occurred as a result of a campaign by Bernard J. Cigrand and the American Flag Day Association.
It is observed across the country by displaying the American flag on homes and public buildings. Other popular ways of observing this day include flag-raising ceremonies, the singing of the national anthem, and the study of flag etiquette and the flag's origin and meaning. Each year more than 3,000 schoolchildren form a living American flag at Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Md., near where Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner" ( see also Defenders' Day).
National Flag Day Foundation
418 S. Broadway
P.O. Box 435
Baltimore, MD 21231
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
National Park Service
End of S. Fort Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21230
410-962-4290; fax: 410-962-2500
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 444
AnnivHol-2000, p. 100
BkHolWrld-1986, Jun 14
DictDays-1988, p. 42
HolSymbols-2009, p. 264
PatHols-2006, p. 117

Celebrated in: Argentina, Liberia, Panama

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

flag day

A software change that is neither forward- nor backward-compatible, and which is costly to make and costly to reverse. E.g. "Can we install that without causing a flag day for all users?"

This term has nothing to do with the use of the word flag to mean a variable that has two values. It came into use when a massive change was made to the Multics time-sharing system to convert from the old ASCII code to the new one; this was scheduled for Flag Day (a US holiday), June 14, 1966.

See also backward combatability, lock-in.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (foldoc.org)
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