You see the American flag hanging in classrooms, above porches and flying from nearly every flagpole. With 13 red and white stripes and a blue field of 50 stars, it’s a symbol for American freedom that’s known around the world. What Americans might not know is that there are a specific set of guidelines that govern the way each flag should be flown, taken care of and ultimately destroyed.
The US Flag Code dictates that American flags should be hoisted and lowered each day, although they can be flown through the night if properly illuminated. If tattered, flags should be destroyed in a dignified way (although Texas v. Johnson affirmed a person’s right to burn one in protest). When it comes to folding an American flag, the Boy Scouts of America teach that — out of respect — it should never touch the ground. To prevent this, flags should be folded between two people. From there follow these six steps, which were curated with the guidance of the Boy Scouts of America handbook, to learn how to fold your own flag or lend a hand in a pinch.
1Hold the flag parallel to the ground. You will need a partner since most flags are too large (three feet by five feet) to fold properly with one person. Each of you should grab two corners, with the flag’s stripes running towards you.
2Fold the flag in half, lengthwise. Each person should fold over and unite the two corners of the flag that they’re holding. Then secure the flag tautly and turn it so it’s once again parallel to the ground. The blue field of stars should remain on the same left side.
3Fold the flag in half again, lengthwise. This should be a repeat of the previous step, cutting the folded flag’s surface area in half. This step makes the flag narrow enough so that it can then be folded into triangles.
4Start folding the flag into triangles. One person (the one on the side without the blue field of stars) should fold their closed corner up to their side’s open edge.
5Continue folding triangles at 90-degree angles. From here, it should be fairly self-explanatory. Each new triangle fold should overtop itself and continue up the length of the flag.
6Tuck the final bit. When you get near the end and can’t make anymore triangles, tuck the part of the flag that’s into final triangular folds. This should secure it, with the finished folded flag showing nothing but a blue starry field.