Knowing how to properly fold an American flag ensures you appropriately retire it according to the Flag Code when the time comes. Often flag folding occurs on special occasions at ceremonies, and each of the 13 folds has a different meaning. Although the Flag Code isn’t legally binding, it does lay out social expectations and norms for all to follow out of respect. Use this step-by-step guide the next time you need to retire your flag.
Step 1: Lay the Flag Out
While you can do this independently, it’s easiest when done with two or more people, especially because you don’t want it to touch the ground. Begin by having the individuals hold the flag on each corner so it appears flat and facing upward.
Step 2: Begin Folding
Now that the flag is outstretched, it’s time to start folding. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to properly fold an American flag and perform the following steps:
- Fold the flag in half lengthwise with the left side over the right; the striped side should meet the upper edge.
- Holding two corners, fold the flag in half lengthwise—note that you should see the blue union.
- At the striped end, make the first triangle on the right side by folding the edge upward.
- Now fold the left outer corner of the triangle downward to make the second fold.
- Continue this back-and-forth pattern until you’ve made 13 folds.
- In the end, there should be a triangle only showing the blue field.
After folding the flag, you may still see the hem along the blue field. Should this happen, you can hide it by tucking it inside the fold since it forms a small pocket. This allows you to showcase your now-retired flag and all its beauty. Remember, the folds symbolize many things stretching from life to remembrance to honor for the armed forces.
Once you’ve folded the flag, showcase it in a flag case or box, then present it to the recipient—often a veteran or their family. One common location for flag folding is at the funeral of a veteran. The flag holds a different meaning to all people, and by respecting it, we also respect these beliefs. If you’re shopping for a high-quality American flag or flag-related accessories, consider Federal Flags. Let your flag fly high!