Have you ever driven by a municipal building and wondered why the American flag wasn’t flying as high as usual? Government buildings are required to fly the American flag at half-staff on certain days. However, the rules for private citizens are a little different.

Learn when it’s appropriate to fly the American flag at half-staff and how to do so.

When to Fly Your American Flag at Half-Staff

A flag at half-staff symbolizes a country in mourning. It’s meant to honor the life or lives that were lost on that day. Also, it’s traditionally done on specific American holidays. Those five holidays are:

  • Peace Officers’ Memorial Day — May 15
  • Memorial Day — last Monday in May
  • Patriot Day — September 11
  • National Firefighters Memorial Day — first Sunday in October
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day — December 7

The president of the United States can also order the American flag to be flown at half-staff. Usually upon the death of a national or international figure for any duration of time. Similarly, the governor of a state can order flags within the state to be flown at half-mast when a significant state figure dies.

As a private citizen, you can fly your flag at half-staff to honor or mourn any individual you wish on any day.

How to Fly Your Flag at Half-Staff

On a half-staff day, you should first raise the American flag to full-staff and then lower it to half-staff. You should keep your flag at half-staff from sunrise until sunset for all of the aforementioned holidays except Memorial Day. On Memorial Day, you should fly your flag at half-staff until noon and then raise it to full-staff until sunset.

When the current or a former president of the United States dies, the American flag should be flown at half-staff for 30 days. When a vice president dies, the flag is flown at half-staff for 10 days. And when a member of Congress dies, the flag is flown at half-staff on the day of their death and the following day.

When the American flag is flown at half-staff, all other flags, including state and city flags, should be flown at half-staff as well or not flown at all.

It’s important to remember that the Flag Code applies only to government buildings. So it can guide you on the appropriate way to fly your flag, but you won’t face penalties if you stray from its rigid guidelines.

Looking for High-Quality Flags?

For indoor and outdoor American flags of every size, check out Elmer’s Flag.