Independence Day – The Meaning Behind the Day

Today is Independence Day. The Fourth of July. It’s a day of fireworks, barbecues, swimming and summer fun, but today is actually the day commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It’s been celebrated every year since 1777.

For me, today holds a lot of meaning. Legs of both sides of my family go all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Of course, there’s also the Perini’s. My great grandfather travelled here to help his brother get back to Italy, and my great grandmother and her oldest son came through Ellis Island. They stayed and he became a coal miner in the West. I’ve always found it interesting that other Italian family members wanted to come, but a quota was instituted on how many Italians could enter the country. Many of those relatives ended up in South America.

Five of my great-uncles from the Perini family fought for their new country in World War II (against Italy). Can you imagine? The first generation born here had to fight to defeat the country from which they’d come. And yet, they all volunteered. I’m always in awe of them. Luckily, they all came back and were honored with a flag draped over their coffins. 

The flag has always been intertwined with me. I lived in a town with a President’s Park (now closed), including an Abraham Lincoln train and a George Washington river boat.  The flag became intertwined with the holiday for me, even though Flag Day is in June. When I was in high school, I attended a camp to study how government works (yes, I was a definite geek). One of the ways I got involved, was to learn about the flag. I helped raise and lower the flag every morning and every night. I’m not sure if they teach this sort of thing in schools anymore. I kind of doubt it, so I thought I’d share a bit of the symbolism and etiquette about the flag today. Next time you see the stars and stripes, be it flying tall, half staff or perhaps being folded at a funeral, you’ll give Old Glory a second look.

THE COLORS (First were identified in meaning from the Great Seal of the United States)’

  • White signifies purity and innocence.
  • Red signifies hardiness and valor.
  • Blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.

THE STARS AND STRIPES

13 stripes (also called pales) represent the original 13 colonies that declared independence from England.

50 stars symbolize the current 50 United States

THE “FLAG CODE”

There is actually a Code in Title 4 of the United States Code which includes instructions and rules about the use of the flag which was codified by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 and was reenacted as part of the Bicentennial celebration is 1977. 

A FEW CUSTOMS

  • The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.
  • Only displayed from sunrise to sunset unless properly lit.
  • No other flag should be placed above, or on the same level as the U.S. Flag
  • The blue field (aka the union) should be uppermost and to the observer’s left. 
  • When a flag is flown at half-staff, it should be hoisted to the peak for an instant, and then lowered to half-staff. That action should be repeated when it’s lowered for the day.
  • When a flag is used to cover a casket, the union is at the head and over the left shoulder.

  • The flag should never be allowed to touch anything beneath it: the ground, floor, water, or other item.
  • The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
  • The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress.
  • If a flag must be destroyed because of condition, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

THE SYMBOLISM OF THE 13 FOLDS OF THE FLAG

  1. The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
  2. The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
  3. The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
  4. The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
  5. The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
  6. The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
  7. The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
  8. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
  9. The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
  10. The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
  11. The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  12. The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
  13. The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

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