With a big election year ahead of us, one can expect a rise in sales when it comes to the American flag. During the 2016 election, flag sales rose a staggering 15 percent over the previous years.

While a presidential election has the power to unite a country, your patriotism doesn’t have to stop when the voting booths close. Instead, by displaying the American flag, you can show our patriotism year-round.

But before you go out and buy a flag to fly, you need to understand the basics of flag etiquette. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about how to fly flags at half mast.

Why People Fly Flags at Half Mast

Before you can properly display your flag, you need to know what a flag half mast represents.

Flying a flag at half mast is a way to show that the country is grieving or mourning a specific event. This can happen either on memorial holidays or after the death of a prominent public figure.
The President of the United States has the main authority to order flags flown at half mast. A state’s Governor may also make the order if the tragedy is local in nature.

To stay informed, you can sign up to receive notifications from the American Legion when a half staff order is made. This way, you’ll never miss a national announcement.

How Long to Fly Flag at Half Mast

If you’re asking, “how long do flags stay at half mast?” the answer depends on the situation that’s occurring.

Below are the different half mast scenarios you’ll encounter.

Remembrance Holidays

There are several reoccurring holidays where it’s customary to fly your flag at half staff. During these times, you only fly the flag at half mast on the exact holiday.

These include:

  • Peace Officers Memorial Day – May 15
  • Memorial Day – the last Monday in May
  • Patriot Day – September 11
  • National Firefighters Memorial Day – a rotating date in October
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – December 7

Regardless of the reason, most often you only fly the flag at half mast from sunrise to sunset. A flag should always be taken down at night unless properly lighted. The exception is Memorial Day when the flag is flown at half staff only until noon.

Death of Important Public Figures

When a notable public figure dies, the acting President can order the flag flown at half mast. The more important a person was to American government means the flag shall remain at half staff for longer.

The longest period that a flag flies at half staff is for thirty days after the death of a President or former President.

From there, a flag is flown at half staff for ten days following the death of a Vice Present, retired or current chief justice, or Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Half staff also occurs until the burial of certain government figures. These commonly include a former Vice President, a state’s Governor, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, or the secretary of a military department.

Other Times When Half Mast Is Appropriate

These are the dates clearly laid out in the U.S. code, but the President or a state’s Governor can issue flags to be flown at half staff when they deem appropriate. This could be the result of any prominent death or tragic event. Most often, these instances will only call for the flags to be flown at half mast for a single day.

If you’re ever unsure of how long should flags be at half mast, be sure to check the U.S. Code for guidance on the particular situation.

How to Switch Your Flag Position

There is a particular way you should switch your flag to half staff position.
How to Switch Your Flag Position
The easiest scenario when it comes to flying your flag at half mast is when you have a telescoping flagpole, like those seen online at First, hoist your flag to its peak position and then lower it to half mast. Then, before taking your flag down for the evening, raise it again to its peak position before lowering it totally.

Make sure that if you have any other flags on your flagpole, they are either removed or also flown at half mast to show respect.

If you don’t have a flagpole, you may be wondering how to fly a flag at half mast on a house. The American Legion has come up with an alternative way to show respect.

Simply attach a black streamer or ribbon to the top of your flag. The ribbon or streamer should be the same width as your flag’s stripes and the same length as your flag.

Other Flag Etiquette to Know

Flaying your flag at half staff is just one of the many rules of flag etiquette you should know.

In the case of extreme weather, the flag should be removed. A flag should also only fly at night if it is properly illuminated.
Other Flag Etiquette to Know
If you have multiple flags on display, the American flag should always be on top. If the flags are displayed next to each other, the alternate flag should be on the right side of the American flag.

Let Your Patriotic Side Fly High

Now that you know how to fly flags at half mast, you’re ready to install your own flag pole and show off your patriotic side. You can buy rebel flags and confederate flags that you want to proudly display.

Remember that half mast is dictated by the American flag code, so it’s not a law or ordinance. As long as you are trying to be respectful, people will understand if you forget to adjust your flag for the first few occasions. The most important thing to do is to fly your flag proudly and treat it with respect.

Visit the Outdoors section of this site to discover more ways to show off your personality through your landscaping.