Today Americans celebrate a little-known patriotic holiday called, Flag Day.
Flag Day honors the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as our national flag by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. This flag symbolized the new nation, the United States of America.
The Stars and Stripes first flew in a Flag Day celebration in Hartford, Conn., in 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War.
More than a decade later, Americans celebrated the inaugural Flag Day, June 14, 1877 on the centennial of the original flag resolution. In the decades that followed, many individuals and organizations pressed to make Flag Day a regularly observed holiday.
Flag Day is a day for all Americans to celebrate and show respect for our flag, and its makers. Our flag represents our independence and our unity as a nation.
Our flag has a proud, glorious and tragic history. Many people have sacrificed their lives protecting it.
Sentimental writers and orators have tried to ascribe meanings to the flag's colors. But George Washington and other founders of the United States had a different idea.
From the book "Our Flag" published in 1989 by the House of Representatives:
"On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a committee to devise a seal for the United States of America. This mission, designed to reflect the Founding Fathers' beliefs, values, and sovereignty of the new Nation, did not become a reality until June 20, 1782. In heraldic devices, such as seals, each element has a specific meaning. Even colors have specific meanings. The colors red, white, and blue did not have meanings for The Stars and Stripes when it was adopted in 1777. However, the colors in the Great Seal did have specific meanings."
Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated: "The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.
"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."
Congress formalized the observance of Flag Day with a simple ceremony, "Pause for the Pledge of Allegiance."
The ceremony asks all Americans to take a moment on June 14, Flag Day, at 7 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. Arizona time) to say simultaneously the words of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
"I 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."