Just in time for Flag Day and the Glorious Fourth!
Many traditions surround the American flag; among them is the proper method of folding the flag before storing it or presenting it at a ceremony. Regardless of size, it takes thirteen folds to properly fold our Nation’s flag: two lengthwise folds and eleven triangular folds. Some people have found significance in that fact, linking the number 13 with the thirteen original colonies, and they have attempted to attach a special meaning to each fold. In fact, the flag is folded thirteen times in order to achieve a compact and pleasing result; the number 13 is coincidental.
Several people have written “Thirteen Folds” ceremonies meant to be read while the folding process is taking place. Lt. Col. Samuel Hudspath, Chief of Protocol of the United States Air Force, who has researched the subject, has written:
There is no shortage of scripts available that can be read aloud during a flag folding, but many of those scripts are religious in nature and also ascribe meaning to the individual folds put into the flag. One of the oldest of those scripts is attributed to an anonymous chaplain at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Individuals who hear those scripts end up attributing the contents of the script to the U.S. Air Force. But the reality is that neither Congress, nor federal laws related to the flag, assign any special meaning to the individual folds.
By popular demand, we have written a “Thirteen Folds” ceremony especially for yachting associations that have their foundation in civilian life. Our ceremony honors our Nation’s military as well as our civil government. It also restates fundamental concepts of American democracy and acknowledges the great achievements of our civilization.
The Thirteen Folds
The First Fold of our flag brings together two halves, it commemorates the great explorers who brought together the old world and the new world in the land we know as America.
The Second Fold again brings together different sides. It represents the bringing together of the waters of the world through the great canals and engineering feats of civilization.
The Third Fold reminds us of God. The number three has from ancient times been considered the symbol of divine perfection, and our Nation has from its very beginning trusted in Divine Providence.
The Fourth Fold calls to mind the Four Freedoms our Nation believes people everywhere in the world ought to enjoy: Freedom of speech; Freedom of worship; Freedom from want; and Freedom from fear.
The Fifth Fold is made in tribute to our elected representatives. In making our laws, they represent the voice of our People. We pray they will always be right, but we respect them, right or wrong.
The Sixth Fold honors those in the executive branch of our government who are charged with carrying out the will of our People. Let them ever be mindful of the fact that although they hold the symbols of authority, here, in our Nation, the People rule.
The Seventh Fold is made in honor of our judges. They have the awesome responsibility of interpreting the will of our People. May God, the Great Judge of the Universe, guide them in their quest, and remind them that justice must always be tempered with mercy.
The Eighth Fold signifies the eight major points of the compass and reminds us that no matter how the winds of fate may blow, we must remain true to our course.
The Ninth Fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces: through them, through their courage and service, we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
The Tenth Fold reminds us of the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution, our Bill of Rights, the great document that enshrines the basic rights and liberties for which American heroes of every generation have given their lives and fortunes.
The Eleventh Fold is made in honor of all those who gave their lives or a portion of their lives in service to our country and to attain peace throughout the world.
The Twelfth Fold honors the many religions of our Nation. May we, a free People, continue to worship the God of All Nations in our own diverse ways, without interference from our government or fear of our fellow citizens.
The Thirteenth Fold completes the folding of the flag. It reminds us of the thirteen colonies that grew into our great Nation. The stars of the flag are uppermost, reminding us of our true calling to a higher nature.
(Optional) As the flag is presented to our presiding officer, he/she salutes it on our behalf, and holds it tightly because it represents the Heart of our Nation.