Why are flags at half mast today?

Why are flags at half mast today?

The militaries of all countries have developed traditions over the centuries since their inception. Flying a flag at half mast is one of those, and is often used as a signal of respect or distress or mourning. 

Interestingly, “half mast” is the term most often used by countries to describe the flying of a flag halfway down its pole, but in the United States “half mast” is only used when the flag is on a ship; otherwise, the term “half staff” is used for flags on dry land. 

While the act of flying a flag at half mast has been around since the 17th century, there remains conjecture between companies about what ‘half mast’ actually means. The Brits refuse to lower the flag below two-thirds of the pole whereas other countries won’t lower it below the hoist or below the width of the flag itself. 

There are so many reasons why various countries will lower their flag to half mast, but here are some of the reasons for it practices by some countries: 

  1. United States
    1. For 30 days after a former or current President (or the President elect) dies 
    2. Before noon on Memorial Day 
    3. On September 11 each year 
  2. United Kingdom
    1. At funerals of members of the Royal Family 
    2. At funerals of current and former Prime Ministers 
  3. Australia
    1. Until noon on ANZAC Day 
    2. On Remembrance Day 
    3. On anniversaries of natural disasters 
  4. Canada
    1. The death of a member of the British Royal Family 
    2. The death of a currently-serving Governor General or Prime Minister 
  5. China
    1. On the death of major leaders of the presiding political party 
    2. On the anniversaries of natural disasters 
  6. Germany
    1. On a day proclaimed by the federal president to be a day of mourning any event determined as appropriate 
  7. Italy
    1. On the anniversaries of certain natural disasters 
  8. Malaysia 
    1. On the death of the King or Queen 
    2. On the death of the currently-serving Prime Minister or Vice Prime Minister

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