United States

What is Flag Day? Here's what to know about the June 14 observance

Flag Day is Wednesday, marking an opportunity to celebrate the flag and its historical significance. How did it start?

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Every year on June 14, the United States celebrates the flag and its historical significance.

Though Flag Day is not a federal holiday, people may choose to commemorate the day by flying flags outside homes and businesses.

Here's what to know about Flag Day and how it started.

How did Flag Day start?

On June 14, 1777, the United States first adopted the design for the flag, but there are many claims to the first observance of Flag Day.

One of the most recognized was June 14, 1889, when a principal at a free kindergarten for the poor in New York City organized patriotic events to observe the anniversary of the original Flag Day resolution, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The observance caught on with the State Department of Education, which had the day observed in all public schools.

Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge issued Flag Day proclamations in 1916 and 1927, respectively, but it wasn't until 1949 that that Flag Day was approved by Congress as national observance. President Harry Truman then signed it into law.

The legislation calls on the White House to issue Flag Day proclamation each year.

"Old Glory stands for hope, pride, and progress," President Joe Biden said in this year's resolution. "It is stamped on our exports, hung from booming factories, and painted on spacecraft that travel high above our skies — a symbol of the American spirit that keeps innovating, building, and breaking boundaries. It waves for justice and equality.  It adorns courtrooms and classrooms.  And it presides over free and fair elections at polling places across the Nation, reinforcing the promise of our democracy."

Click here to read the full proclamation.

What are the symbols of the flag?

The flag’s 50 white stars represent the country’s 50 states, while the 13 red and white stripes reflect the number of the original colonies. 

The flag’s look has changed over time, usually gaining more stars to account for new states. Most recently, the flag gained its 50th star when Hawaii became part of the US in 1959.

The colors of the flag are also significant. Red symbolizes valor and bravery, white represents purity and innocence, and blue shows vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

Click here to read about the federal flag code, including proper display and care.

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