Folk Beliefs

The Flag and Luck

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“When I was younger, at my school we would have flag duty, which meant that every morning before the start of classes we would have to go take the American flag and put it on the flagpole and hoist it up and apparently its bad luck if it ever touches the ground. So we had to make sure it never touched the ground.”

The American flag is one of the symbols of our country and should be respected. There exists a formal United States Flag Code in Chapter 1 of the United States Code that outlines how the flag of the United States should be treated. According to this document, the flag should not ever touch the ground or anything beneath it, as it is considered disrespectful to allow that to happen. This might be where this piece of folklore stems from. It certainly does seem like disrespecting something as symbolic and important as the US flag would invite bad luck. Perhaps the teachers at the school felt it may be difficult for young students to comprehend treating the flag with such respect, and described the consequences as “bad luck” as a more universal reason not to accidentally disrespect the flag. Furthermore, this piece of folklore might help to ensure that young flag guards take extra care when handling the flag.

A related urban legend states that the US flag must be burned if it ever touches the ground. This is actually just a combination of the two United States Flag Codes. The other flag code is about how a worn out flag must be destroyed respectfully, most often in fire. The urban legend sounds plausible as a flag dirtied by the ground might be considered ruined and fire is often thought to be a purifying force.

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