As we get closer to the Fourth of July, a time to celebrate our nation, you may notice friends and neighbors getting into the spirit by flying United States flags at home. I must say, while I have never flown a flag myself, I have always admired the homeowners who chose to do so.

Whether it is a state flag, a nation flag or both, I have always been curious as to how people can maintain their flags properly. How do they know when to hoist the flags, when to take them down, and when to fly at half-staff? For U.S. flags, it turns out there is a National Flag Code, and deciding to hoist one yourself comes with an acceptance of these rules. Here are some of the basics, should you decide to let your patriotic colors fly at home this holiday season:

• Light it up. The code calls for displaying the flag only from sunrise to sunset. However, the rules flex for at-home and civilian displays. If you want to fly your flag 24/7, just make sure to illuminate it during nighttime hours.

• Go fast and slow. When you raise your flag, the code calls for hoisting it “briskly.” When it is time to lower it, you should do so “ceremoniously.”

• Watch the weather. If you plan on flying your flag continuously, opt for an all-weather flag. Otherwise, the code calls for taking your flag down in inclement weather.

• Keep a calendar. While the code calls for displaying the flag year-round, it also emphasizes that the following days are especially important: New Year’s Day, Inauguration Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Constitution Day, Columbus Day, Navy Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and “such other days as may be proclaimed by the president of the United States; the birthdays of states (date of admission); and on state holidays.”

• Fly at half-staff. Flying a flag at half-staff is a symbol of respect and often mourning. The flag should first be raised to the top of the pole and then lowered to half-staff. Typically, flags should be flown at half-staff on specific days throughout the year, including Sept. 11 and Dec. 7, on orders from the president or the governor, and following the death of certain government officials. You can sign up for half-staff notifications online to make it easier. If you don’t have a flagpole, you can add a black ribbon to the top of your flag to indicate mourning. Alternatively, you might want to look for flagpoles for sale so that you can display the flag correctly.

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