How Did Flag Day Start? A History of The Holiday

Flag Day takes place every year on June 14, as a way for people to commemorate the American flag, a symbol of freedom and independence. It isn't a day that changes date, like Thanksgiving. No matter the day of the week, June 14 is the day to celebrate by waving your own flags high.

The holiday isn't too widely celebrated. By that, we mean it hasn't become a major commercial holiday, like Memorial Day or Christmas. Because of that, many Americans may pass by Flag Day without even realizing they've missed an important holiday for the American tradition.

So how did Flag Day start? And is there a way you should be celebrating it?

The design of the American flag has a long history. It all began during the Revolutionary War, which began in 1775. You probably learned about it in history class: America was fighting for its freedom from the British, and the right to establish itself as an independent nation.

American Flag
The American Flag waves before a game between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Tulane Green Wave on September 17, 2005, at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana. Ronald Martinez/Getty

During this conflict, the Americans wanted a flag of their own. So they designed one: red and white stripes (like what you see on a flag today) and the British flag (or Union Jack) in the corner. But George Washington had a problem with the British symbol still being incorporated. He thought this might lower morale for the soldiers who were fighting to get away from the British leadership. So, he petitioned to have a new flag created.

On June 14, 1777, the new flag, which had 13 stars in a blue corner, was created to represent American freedom. That flag eventually transitioned into the same one we fly today, with 50 stars for 50 states.

Flag Day became an official holiday much later, in 1916. The best way to celebrate Flag Day is a no-brainer. Wave your flags high and proud. You can do this by putting an American flag outside of your home or office.

There are some other, bigger ways to celebrate, though. Some places hold parades, according to Military.com. Others host essay contests and picnics. Your own community may support some of these community activities, though there's a chance many are postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are lots of conflicting reports about how the flag came to be. Some say that Betsy Ross created the first flag. That story is not only widely circulated but taught in some American history classes. There's no definite proof that Ross held this role, though, History Channel claims. Ross' grandson made this announcement in 1840, and there's been no other proof of Ross' involvement.