Rules for flying the American flag at night

Spencer Roberts

Did you know the American flag is not to be flown at night unless it is illuminated? It’s the law. The law was adopted by Congress on June 22, 1942 when it passed the National Flag Code, which clearly spells out the proper procedures for displaying and respecting our national symbol. The National Flag Code states, “It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”

Though it is against the law to fly the American flag at night without illumination, honoring the National Flag Code and respecting the flag relies on voluntary compliance since there are no civilian or governmental agencies that will come and arrest someone for violating the code.

Interestingly, there is one exception that I am aware of where the American Flag is displayed at night without illumination. That is at the Arlington National Cemetery, where once a year on the Memorial Day holiday, 280,000 flags are placed on the graves by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division. There, the flags are watched over by soldiers the entire time, during the day and in the darkness. But that is the only exception to the code regarding flying the flag at night.

I would encourage all residents who have a flag on display that is not illuminated to bring the flag in at night and put it back out in the morning to properly honor the flag.

Our American flag is a symbol of our country, our freedoms and our nation. There is a reason the National Flag Code was passed by Congress. Respect the flag. Honor the Code.