Independence Day is a day to be celebrated with our colors flying proudly. Most of us choose to celebrate our nation’s birthday gathered around friends and family, decked out in red, white, and blue and watching brilliant displays of fireworks dance across the sky.

But sometimes the best holiday intentions can lead to disastrous outcomes. Here are several “do’s and don’ts” to abide by in order to safely, and respectfully, celebrate our nation.

Do: Show your patriotism

Don’t: Disrespect the American flag

HGTV made a huge blunder last year when they advertised the following in one of their holiday-themed articles: 

“Drape a large American flag over the table as a bright and festive table runner. Use a nylon flag so spills can be easily wiped off and the flag can later be hung with pride on a flag pole.”

Most Americans, especially with ties to the military, had a really big problem with this. The flag is not a decoration, nor is it something to wipe food from.  It’s a symbol for all who have served and paved the way for our great nation.  People have bled and died for those colors and our flag deserves to be treated with only the most respect.

In addition to using it as a table cloth or decoration, there seems to be a trend with people draping themselves with the flag in wedding photos, pregnancy photos, or even baby photos. I’m patriotic too, but there’s a right and a wrong way to go about this.

What’s okay and what’s not?

If you want to show your patriotism through decorations and apparel, don’t use the actual flag. That is disrespectful. Most feel flag-inspired clothing and décor is okay, though some may disagree. Decorating with a red, white, and blue theme is good, so long as you’re not actually using Old Glory in a manner that it should not be used in.

The VFW provides a wonderful guide for flag etiquette, clearly stating, “Never use the flag for decoration.” There are several great sources out there to refer to if you have questions about exactly how our nation’s flag should be handled.

Do: Throw a party

Don’t: Forget to have a designated kid-watcher

Set aside safe places for kids to play if you’re going to have a party where they are present.  If you have sprinkler heads or anything sharp that protrudes from your lawn, consider placing a bucket over the top of it, or mark it off so that it’s visible for little ones.

Water in the summer is great for cooling down, but can lead to dangerous slips, falls and worse, drowning.  If you have a pool, make sure that you have a designated adult responsible for watching the water at all times.  Drowning becomes the greatest risk when there are a lot of people around, because someone always thinks that someone else is watching.

Do: Cook up an outdoor feast

Don’t: Unintentionally poison your guests

Fourth of July celebrations often mean food, and lots of it. Don’t forget to keep certain things cool; anything with eggs or mayonnaise in it needs to be kept cool to avoid food poisoning.

An easy way to make sure that food remains chilled is to fill individual bowls with ice and place the dish on top of the bowl.  Get creative with containers. You can fill ice into shallow plastic bins, an inflatable blow up chaise, or even a kiddie pool.

Do:  Play with fire

Don’t: Forget that fire is hot

You’d think that kids would know that fire is hot, but sometimes they forget.  Make sure that you keep young ones away from the grill and a safe distance from fireworks.  It’s a good idea to set up a hose as a perimeter so that kids know not to cross the line. As an added bonus, if you’re lighting off your own fireworks, you have your hose handy and ready to put out any fires that pop up.

If you’re grilling, remember to keep your grill away from the house.  You don’t want flames to shoot up into the eaves or porch of your home.

Do: Always remember those who serve

Of course, one final rule. Remember those who have fought and continue to fight for our nation. I can’t let this opportunity go without taking a moment to thank our nation’s veterans and all those families who support them on the home front.  Enjoy your 4th of July and be safe!  God bless America.