Flag Day 2020: What is the holday and how is it celebrated?

How Americans mark a tradition more than 150 years old commemorating the day the stars and stripes came into existence

Donald Trump hugs a US flag at a rally with supporters in Tampa, Florida, in 2016
Donald Trump hugs a US flag at a rally with supporters in Tampa, Florida, in 2016

In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated each year on 14 June to commemorate the day on which the country adopted its famous stars and stripes.

The celebration was officially recognised by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, to mark the date in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress selected the American flag.

Although not an official federal holiday, Flag Day is observed widely across the United States in a number of ways.

When is Flag Day?

Flag Day is celebrated every year on 14 June to commemorate the date on which the flag of the United States was first raised.

The earliest reference to a flag day being marked in America was in 1861, when the city of Hartford, Connecticut, is recorded as having held a “programme of patriotic order” on 14 June.

Although officially declared in 1916, a National Flag Day was not established by an Act of Congress until 1946.

What was the first United States flag?

At first, the Flag Resolution adopted by Congress did not specify a particular arrangement of stars, or how many points the stars should have.

Early flags bore 13 stars, to represent the 13 colonies that declared independence from the British Empire in 1776.

There are many examples of 13-star arrangements on these early flags, one of the most famous being the “Betsy Ross”, which displayed five-pointed stars in a circle.

How many designs have been used over the years?

Dozens of designs have been used since the United States adopted the star spangled banner almost 250 years ago.

The flag gradually began gaining more stars as the number of states in the union grew until 1960, when the 50th and final state, Hawaii, was incorporated.

When Alaska and Hawaii became the last two states, more than 1,500 designs were submitted to President Dwight D Eisenhower for consideration.

The winning design, the current version of Old Glory, was chosen and flown for the first time at Fort McHenry on Independence Day, 1960.

How is Flag Day celebrated?

In the US, Flag Day is not an official national holiday, but this does not stop people across the country from organising celebrations.

Many towns and cities would normally hold and annual Flag Day parade, the largest of which is staged in Troy, New York, attracting some 50,000 spectators.

However, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, these celebrations are unlikely to take place in 2020.

The week of 14 June is designated as National Flag Week, during which time American citizens are encouraged to fly the flag at their homes, and all government buildings are expected to display the stars and stripes

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