What Is Flag Day and Why Do We Celebrate It?

Updated: May 06, 2024

If you're not sure why we celebrate Flag Day, you're not alone. Here's what you need to know about the holiday.

Front side of typical american porch colonial house with white traditional columns and pillars, beautiful garden in the back and forestDe Repente/Shutterstock

When most people think of summer holidays, they think of the big three: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. But people often forget another important American observance—Flag Day. Make sure while you’re celebrating, you follow these American flag etiquette rules, and if you had any doubts, these American flag photos will get you in the patriotic spirit.

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What is Flag Day?

Flag Day, celebrated on June 14 every year, is the celebration and recognition of the stars and stripes. Although it isn’t a federal holiday, it is a state holiday in Pennsylvania and New York.

So, what is Flag Day? It all started with a resolution passed by the Continental Congress in 1777 which called for an official American flag.

How did Flag Day start?

After the flag’s creation, several people in the late 19th century had a helping hand in creating the holiday—but it’s unclear who officially suggested its’ creation first. One key person was B.J. Cigrand, a Wisconsin-born schoolteacher, who continuously proposed an annual observance of the flag in magazine and newspaper articles. He even arranged for his pupils to celebrate a day recognizing what he called the flag’s “birthday” on June 14.

Another person involved was George Morris, a Hartford, Connecticut resident who instituted a formal observance of the day in his hometown. There was also George Bolch, a New York kindergarten teacher who planned Flag Day ceremonies for the kids at his school. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Duane Gillespie—a direct descendant of Benjamin Franklin—pushed for a similar observance in Pennsylvania in 1893. But it wasn’t until May 7, 1937, that Pennsylvania became the first state to establish Flag Day on June 14 as a legal holiday, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

It took three presidents to get Flag Day on the government’s radar—President Woodrow Wilson issued a formal proclamation for Flag Day in 1916 and President Calvin Coolidge did the same in 1927. But in 1949, Congress finally approved and President Harry Truman signed the national observance of Flag Day on June 14 into law.

“It is our custom to observe June 14 each year with ceremonies designed not only to commemorate the birth of our flag but also to rededicate ourselves to the ideals for which it stands,” Truman said in his proclamation. “This beloved emblem, which flies above all our people of whatever creed or race, signalizes our respect for human rights and the protection such rights are afforded under our form of government.” What is Flag Day to President Truman? It’s more than a day to celebrate the physical flag.

When is Flag Day?

Still, even though we observe Flag Day on June 14, it’s not an official federal holiday—it was excluded from the 1968 Uniform Holiday Act, which established the federal holidays celebrated today. Although we might not have June 14 off from work, we celebrate the stars and stripes through songs, parades, and ceremonies on Flag Day and on so many other patriotic holidays. There are so many reasons to celebrate, including these 20 reasons the American flag is even cooler than you thought.

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  • NJ.com: “Flag Day 2017: History, facts and why the observance never became a true holiday”
  • Mental Floss: “A Brief History of Flag Day”
  • VA.gov: “The Origins of Flag Day”
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