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It’s not mentioned in the federal flag code, but by tradition if you have a flagpole that is too short for the flag to be lowered to half-staff (such as a home flag mounted diagonally off the porch or window facing) then it is respectful to signify honor and mourning by flying a black streamer from the top of the flag pole. It should not be attached to the flag, but to the pole.

Here is an easy way to make a streamer. Use a length of ribbon that is twice as long as of the flag, and the same width as one of the stripes. Take an elastic hair band (like you’d use for a pony tail), and knot the ribbon around the hair band so that it looks neat and tidy. Trim the ends to the same length, then dress them by notching in swallow-tails or by cutting them on an angle. Twist the hair band around the top of the flag pole, adjust until it hangs freely and looks nice.

For flags mounted on a wall or hanging by the header attached to a pole, you can place streamers at the top corners, but on the wall or pole, not to the flag itself.

A caveat: Decorating ribbon is less expensive, but will fade on your flag if it gets wet. Dressmaker’s ribbon (for use on clothing) is more expensive but will last longer and is colorfast.

7 Responses to “Black Ribbon Streamers for Mourning”

  1. [...] you fly your flag from a fixed staff, this article explains how to use a black ribbon to comply with this [...]

  2. [...] such as mounted on the front of a house, can use black streamers to signify honor and mourning. This article that explains how. The ribbons are removed at noon, as other U.S. flags are raised to [...]

  3. [...] at half-staff because the pole is too short, it is permissible to signify honor and mourning with a black ribbon streamer affixed to the flag [...]

  4. [...] owners with flags that are not easily half-staffed may attach a black ribbon to the flag pole, as a sign of remembrance and mourning. Please remember to remove it at [...]

  5. [...] position. There isn’t anything specified in the flag code, but the tradition is to fly a black mourning streamer from the top of the flag pole. I had never heard of these streamers before this year, when the [...]

  6. Lorraine Gillespie says:

    Black ribbons were placed in this manner on Canadian flags in the foyer at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on August 24, 2011 for the funeral of Opposition Leader Jack Layton. As far as I know this is the first time this has been done in Canada and as with your flag code, it’s not mentioned in the Canadian Heritage Flag web site. Here’s a link with a photo which may or may not last.

  7. Lorraine, thank you for writing. The photo link you provided did not work, but I used a search engine and found many newspapers links with photos.

    I once spent a whole day trying to find out if Canada had a written flag code similar to the United States, and finally found the Canadian Heritage website. I think using the black ribbons on the short flagpoles looks very dignified. I am tempted to search back for funeral photos of other Canadian dignitaries to see if there are other instances of black ribbons being used.

    Generally, I am quite emphatic in following the flag code, but I think the use of black ribbons on static flagpoles makes a lot of sense and is historically appropriate, if not specifically mentioned. Perhaps in the future, it will be addressed in the flag code.

    Thank you again, Lorraine.

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