What's the Deal with Flag Day? Juggle Investigates

Two cuddly kittens appear before a sparkling US flag with the text "Happy Flag Day" beneath.

This is by far the awesomest piece of Flag Day art we could find. We challenge you not to be inspired by these brave, patriotic and cuddly kittens.

Sometimes, late at night when we’re falling asleep, we have questions. It’s ok. Everyone does it and it’s perfectly healthy. All too often though, once we’re awake the next morning, we forget what was so important the night prior. Well, friends, this ends today, with a new series called Juggle Investigates. In these posts we’ll take to a question that might be trivial now, but sure seemed (somewhat) important for the 30 seconds before you feel asleep and kind of answer it based on our incredible Internet searching powers. Today’s investigation: What’s the deal with Flag Day?

Every year the same thing happens: you flip you calendar to June and there it is, all by itself on June 14th: Flag Day. For a moment you’re excited, ecstatic, even. After all, this “Flag Day” sounds exactly like the kind of holiday where you’re not expected to work and the mail doesn’t come. Sadly, though, it never pans out and every year Flag Day just sits there, waiting to entice you for a brief moment and then do nothing once June 14th actually rolls around. Why?

In its simplest terms, Flag Day is a day set aside for honoring the US flag and everything it stands for. President Woodrow Wilson established Flag Day by proclamation in 1916. The date of June 14th commemorates the adoption of the flag by the Second Continental Congress. In 1949 National Flag Day was established by Congress.

Of course all of this history really doesn’t mean much, since we’ve already established that Flag Day doesn’t really seem like a “real” holiday. What do people do on flag day? Well, in some places there are parades. Quincy, Massachusetts hosts one of the longest-running parades, but for some reason that’s not made clear, the official Quincy website reports that the Flag Day Parade has been cancelled. In a testament to how no one really does anything on June 14th, the parade was scheduled for yesterday, the 13th. Troy, New York is also pretty serious about Flag Day, and their annual parade is the largest, drawing over 50,000 flag-lovers each year. Of course, it probably helps that they hold the parade on a Sunday. Wikipedia reports that Flag Day is observed as a state holiday in Pennsylvania, but an exhaustive search of the Pennsylvania state website reveals that this is apparently no longer the case.

Basically then, nothing much really happens on Flag Day. In some places, there are parades the weekend before. Also, if you care about this sort of thing at some point today President Obama will issue a proclamation that officially makes today Flag Day. Also, there’s a totally serious National Flag Day Foundation that’s dedicated to perpetuating this quasi-observance  through dynamic, excitement generating-activities like an essay contest for 4-12th graders (topic: “What the flag means to me”). The grand prize is a $500 savings bond! (A future Juggle Investigates will determine just what exactly a savings bond is and how it works.)

Faced with the fact that it seems like all the Flag Day parades are actually on the second Sunday in June rather than the 14th, we’re at a bit of a loss to tell you how to best observe the day. The best we can come up with, and certainly the most Internet-y, is Slate‘s awesome American Flag Generator. Use it to imagine what things might look like if we finally made Iraq, Afghanistan and Guam states! Or if we decided to finally de-annex that pesky Virginia. No matter what your flag ends up looking like, just remember to fly it high and fly it proud.

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