National Anthem Day. Photo: KnowInsiders
National Anthem Day. Photo: KnowInsiders

National Anthem Day commemorates the day the United States adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner” as its National Anthem. Written by Francis Scott Key, the “Star-Spangled Banner” became the National Anthem in 1931.

When is the National Anthem Day?

National Anthem Day on March 3 observes the songs nations around the world have adopted and chosen to represent their national identity. For America, that song is “The Star-Spangled Banner” and has a rich history to match the pomp and circumstance any national anthem should garner for the country it represents.

History of National Anthem Day

Let’s take a step back in time to the evening of September 13, 1812. Maryland attorney Francis Scott Key found himself aboard a British sea vessel negotiating the release of Dr. William Beans, a prisoner of war accused of misleading the British troops. While Key’s negotiation was successful, the British troops would not allow him to disembark the ship out of fear he may disclose the Brit’s battle plans to American forces.

So, Key and Beans remained on the ship through the night witnessing the intense attack on Fort McHenry. Expecting American troops to have lost the battle, Key was astounded to see the American flag flying over Fort McHenry the next morning. The events of the evening ending in the triumphant flying of the American flag inspired Key to write a poem that ultimately became “The Star-Spangled Banner”, our national anthem.

By the early 1900s, there were several different versions of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” so President Woodrow Wilson asked the Bureau of Education to standardize it making one official version. The Bureau hired five musicians, including John Philip Sousa, to standardize the song which was first performed on December 5, 1917.

Finally, on March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a congressional order into law making “The Star-Spangled Banner” America’s national anthem. National Anthem Day falls on March 3 annually commemorating the signing of the law.

Recently, in 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem at football games as a form of protest, which sparked new debates about whether this is an appropriate form of social protest or rather an unpatriotic act.

The story behind “The Star-Spangled Banner” is as moving as the anthem itself. While an attorney, Key was serving in the Georgetown Light Field Artillery during the War of 1812. In 1814, his negotiation skills as a lawyer were called upon to release Dr. William Beane, a prisoner on the British naval ship, Tonnant. Early in September, Key traveled to Baltimore in the company of Colonel John Skinner to begin negotiations.

While Key and Skinner secured Beane’s release, the British navy had begun attacking Baltimore. The trio waited at sea to return to Georgetown.

Fort McHenry is built on a peninsula of the Patapsco River. Just across the Northwest Branch is the city of Baltimore. In 1814, the population of Baltimore was roughly 50,000 people, hardly the metropolis it is today. The country itself was still young, and often families of soldiers lived nearby, providing support to their soldiers.

How to celebrate National Anthem Day

Photo: Sacramento Rainbow SITREP
Photo: Sacramento Rainbow SITREP

National Anthem Day is by far one of the easiest, and potentially the most fun, holidays to celebrate. It all starts at home, do the research to determine what your nation’s National Anthem is, and then take the time to learn all about it and its history. Find out how it’s sung and when, if there are any hidden verses that you may not know about (It’s customary in use for only the first one or two verses to be used, but both “God Save The Queen” and The American National Anthem contain verses not often sung.)

National Anthem day is your opportunity to learn a little bit more about your nation’s history, and perhaps to exhibit a little bit of pride in its history.

Learn the lyrics

Sporting events are more fun if you can sing along, or at least lip-sync, with your fellow Americans plus you may be spotted on TV or the jumbotron; but, really, it’s only appropriate that Americans know the words to our National Anthem.

Visit the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Connecting historical sites across Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, this 560-mile trail takes you over land and water noting key events that led to the Battle of Baltimore, Key’s inspiration for our National Anthem.

Display your Star-Spangled Banner

If you are not already flying your American flag throughout the year, take this opportunity to display it proudly and explain to your friends, family, and neighbors the significance of today.

Ralated: What is The American National Anthem: Full Lyrics, History and Other Patriotic Songs

Facts About U.S National Anthem

​It includes hard to hit notes

​Much controversy surrounded the choice of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as our National Anthem due to some common beliefs that the song is unsingable given the melody’s excessive range.

​It was inspired by a garrison flag

The flag Keys saw flying after the battle was a garrison flag, specifically the Great Garrison Flag, having 15 stripes and 15 stars which was flown on Sundays, holidays, and other special occasions.

​The original name changed

Before it became “The Star-Spangled Banner”, our National Anthem was titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry”.

​It has more than one verse

While only the first verse is typically sung at events, the original song contains four verses with a fifth verse added 47 years later.

It was sung at Woodstock

In 1969, Jimi Hendrix sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and went on to sing his iconic version 60 more times over the next two years.

Here is the complete version of the song showing spelling and punctuation from Francis Scott Key’s manuscript in the Maryland Historical Society collection:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,

‘Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a Country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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