As an Army and Navy custom, the flag is lowered daily at the last note of retreat. Special care should be taken that no part of the flag touches the ground. The Flag is then carefully folded into the shape of a tri-cornered hat, emblematic of the hats worn by colonial soldiers during the war for Independence. In the folding, the red and white stripes are finally wrapped into the blue, as the light of day vanishes into the darkness of night.
This custom of special folding is reserved for the United States Flag alone.
How to fold the Flag
To properly fold the Flag, begin by holding it waist-high with another person so that its surface is parallel to the ground.
Fold the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars,
holding the bottom and top edges securely.
Fold the flag again lengthwise with the blue field on the outside.
Make a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to meet the
open (top) edge of the flag.
Turn the outer (end) point inward, parallel to the open edge, to form a second
The triangular folding is continued until the entire length of the flag is folded in
When the flag is completely folded, only a triangular blue field of stars should be
Flag Folding Ceremony
The flag folding ceremony described by the Uniformed Services is a dramatic and uplifting way to honor the flag on special days, like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, and is sometimes used at retirement ceremonies.
The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded. The portion of the flag denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing the states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted when draped as a pall on a casket of a veteran who has served our country in uniform.
In the Armed Forces of the United States, at the ceremony of retreat the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation's honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
Traditional flag etiquette prescribes that before an American flag is stored or presented, its handlers should twice fold it in half lengthwise; then (from the end opposite the blue field) make a triangular fold, continuing to fold it in triangles until the other end is reached. This makes a triangular "pillow" of the flag with only the blue starred field showing on the outside, and it takes thirteen folds to produce: two lengthwise folds and eleven triangular ones.
The American flag isn't folded in this manner because the thirteen folds correspond to the original thirteen states, or because the folding produces a shape resembling a cocked hat, or because each of the folds has a special symbolic meaning. The flag is folded this way simply because it provides a dignified ceremonial touch that distinguishes folding a flag from folding an ordinary object such as a bedsheet, and because it results a visually pleasing, easy-to-handle shape. That this process requires thirteen folds is coincidental, not the product of design.
Public Law 94-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, is the law of the land regarding the handling and displaying of the American flag. It does not include anything regarding the significance or meaning of folding the flag. It was first adopted by Congress in 1923 and revised numerous times.
Back to Fred's Flag Page
Back to Home Page