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The internet offers a wealth of holiday stories that can enhance your family's celebration. With the help of the (now defunct) ClassicalReview email list, some of the best classic stories and poems have been selected and listed here.
An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott
A story that can be read in one sitting; it isn't very long. It starts off with warm and sentimental descriptions of a large, loving family doing all the nostalgic preparations for a Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House type of Thanksgiving. But then the parents rush off to visit an ailing relative and the children are left alone, and try to finish the preparations themselves. At this point, it becomes reminiscent of another Laura Ingalls Wilder book - the one where Almanzo's parents go away and the children try to keep house themselves.
Though we don't normally recommend movies, we're making an exception for Noelle, a Christmas movie written, produced, and acted by an AO family. This critically acclaimed drama tells the story of a hard-hearted priest who comes to close down a dying church and encounters the real people who live in the parish. It deals with guilt and the difficulty of accepting grace, and portrays the power of love and redemption. ($amzn).
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens A classic that every family should be familiar with. Free audio at StoryNory
If you love A Christmas Carol, you will also love The Chimes. This is Dickens at his best, making us feel vicariously the misery of the poor and oppressed and see their unfair treatment. It might be ranked close in quality to A Christmas Carol, although it's a New Years' story rather than a Christmas story. In fact, it's similar to A Christmas Carol - the spirits of the chimes teach him a similar lesson to the one that the Christmas spirits taught Ebenezer Scrooge, except that the main character is a good man, not a Scrooge, and there's more misery.
The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain by Charles Dickens
Have you ever, when observing or even experiencing great pain, or sorrow, or past hurts, wondered if the world wouldn't be a better place if we weren't subject to feeling emotion? Imagine what it would be to have no bitter memories, no regret, no ill-will because you couldn't remember the offense. Mr. Redwall, wallowing in the tragedy of a beloved sister lost long ago by the actions of a man gone wrong, is offered this escape from his pain. This is rather a long story to get into, but the jolting possibilities and scenarios brought on by this 'gift' make it a story, that, once you get into, you'll want to read on and see what happens next.
Here are more Dickens Christmas stories, but they are probably best appreciated by die-hard Dickens fans:
Some Christmas Stories (6 short stories)
Stories included are A Christmas Tree, What Christmas Is As We Grow Older, The Poor Relation's Story, The Child's Story, The Schoolboy's Story, Nobody's Story.
Holiday Romance is not a Christmas story; it's about 4 children playing house
The Making of a Christmas Story, a chapter from the book The Holiday Round, by A.A. Milne, is a very short story more for grown-ups that can be read in just a few minutes and features the same kind of humor that made Winnie the Pooh popular. The entire book is posted at Project Gutenberg, but since only this chapter is about Christmas, it's been posted separately.
Thanks to Gail for submitting this one:
"We enjoyed the stories in this online book so much, that I went out and found the actual book for holiday reading."
Selections from Good Stories for Great Holidays by Frances Jenkins Olcott
(has stories for more holidays than just Christmas)
Little Piccola, by Frances Olcott after a poem by Celia Thaxter (or here)
The Stranger Child: A Legend by Count Franz Pocci (or here)
The Wooden Shoes of Little Wolff by Francois Coppee (or here)
The Pine Tree by Hans Christian Andersen (or here)
The Christmas Cuckoo by Francis Browne (or here)
The Thunder Oak: A Scandinavian Legend by William S. Walsh (or here)
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry about the sacrificial love between young newlyweds
A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas Childhood - memories of Christmases past. Live reading on YouTube
The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter - A destitute tailor's kindness is rewarded when he needs it most
This Way to Christmas by Ruth Sawyer - Christmas stories that children will love are interwoven into a story of a lonely boy and how his friendships with the outcasts of the community overcome prejudice. Highly recommended.
The Childrens' Book of Christmas Stories edited by Asa Don Dickinson and Ada Skinner - A variety of Christmas stories that will appeal to children in one volume. Includes The Fir-Tree by Hans Christian Andersen, Excerpts from Dickens' A Christmas Carol, fairy tales, and stories of Christmases blessed with kind deeds.
The Noel Candle by Clement C. Moore - A sweet, very short story that tells a legend about the first noel candle, written by the author of the famous poem, Twas The Night before Christmas.
The Gifts of the Christ Child by George MacDonald - May be more appreciated by mothers on a quiet afternoon over a cup (or two) of tea. It's about a neglected little girl whose mother has died, her father is re-married to a lovely yet simple young lady who is a slight disappointment to him. In her loneliness, the little girl wishes God would chastise her because she has heard that God chastises those He loves, and she wishes He loved her. This story is about the lives of the little girl and everyone around her, and how a child's misunderstanding one Christmas changes everything. Like everything else George MacDonald writes, there are little gems in almost every sentence of the story, so it's not one to rush through. This is just one chapter from Christmas Stories of George MacDonald. The entire text is not online, just the one chapter, but if the other stories are as good, then this would be a nice book to own.
Old Christmas by Washington Irving - Features Washington Irving's excellent style of writing. He begins by waxing nostalgic about how the old spirit of Christmas is disappearing in the worldliness of modern progress (and this was in 1820!) and then spends the remainder of the book with what looks like a detailed journal of a Christmas he spent in Yorkshire. It's all descriptions, and might be a nice read for someone wanting to know how people used to spend Christmas in a bygone era. May be long and uninteresting for children.
These Little Ones by Edith Nesbit - This is a book of bittersweet stories, including the poignantly sad story of regret, "The Criminal" (the sixth chapter), and a sweet story with a happy ending that children will like called Thor and the Hammer (the eighth chapter) Neither is a Christmas story. For Christmas, these two chapters are suggested:
The Three Mothers (chapter 1) about loss and the Lord's ability to bring people with needs together, is more for mothers to read.
The Little Chap (chapter 9) is about a child who brings light into the life of a despairing man at Christmastime, and is one children will like.
The Birds' Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin - The only daughter in a family of 3 older brothers -- named Carol because she was born on Christmas morning -- brings joy to everyone around her. She is an angelic too-good-to-be-true child. When it becomes evident that she isn't strong enough to live long, she makes Christmas memorable by sharing it with the brood of nine rowdy but poor next-door-neighbor children. Their response to such a treat and their attempts to act "proper" in the company of well-to-do Carol make this short story worth reading.
Papa Panov's Special Day by Leo Tolstoy (also called Where Love Is, God Is, or Where Love Is, There God Is Also)
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke (all ages) is a classic that's been made into variations, and even a cartoon version. This is the original. :)
Other books recommended (these aren't online):
The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder is not online, but gets an honorable mention and a high recommendation from Karen Glass, who deems it "Definitely high-quality literature." ($amzn) (K)
The Christmas Mystery is a wonderful Christmas story for older children and up. It's a combination of two stories really. The book has 24 chapters, from the 1st of December to the 24th. Each day starts off with the boy Joachim, who has an advent calendar that he opens up to a picture and a piece of paper telling the second story. The mystery is if the story inside it is true or not.
The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot; for younger kids ($amzn)
Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer (who wrote This Way to Christmas, which is mentioned above).
Terri writes, Every holiday season, we read Maggie Rose. It is out of print, but not difficult to find. It's a charming book! Here's a recap from the book cover:
"Eight-going on nine-year-old Maggie Rose, who was born on the night before Christmas and named after a real live princess, is one of "those Bunkers," a lazy and shiftless family who live in a dilapidated shack on the wrong side of the Point, a resort spot near Bangor, Maine, and are known to one and all as the laziest, laughingest, singingest family for miles around. Tim and Liz Bunker and their brood of seven children are without an ambition in the world and prefer to lean generously on the charity of their neighbors rather than go out and work. Only Maggie Rose ever wishes for something a little better; most especially, she wishes that just for once there was enough money for "those Bunkers" to have a wonderful birthday Christmas celebration all of their own.
In spite of their faults "those Bunkers" have a fine feeling for the important things in life and they all recognize Maggie Rose as something special, someone who might have come out of the top bureau drawer, had they had a bureau drawer. So when tragedy threatens Maggie Rose, "those Bunkers" are finally jolted out of their kitchen chairs, and in an unprecedented move they rally together and determinedly set about making Maggie Rose's dream come true.
Ruth Sawyer's unfailing magic . . . brings smiles and tears to her readers.There's the feel of Maine and Maine people in the telling-the author has a gift for absorbing local idiom, for telling a story out of the hearts of her characters."
The Last Straw by Paula Palangi McDonald; (may be online here), can be purchased at amazon.com ($amzn). Children put straw in a manger for every secret good deed they do as part of their advent season. One child has a particularly hard time doing good deeds for a difficult sister.
Turkey For Christmas by Marguerite De Angeli. Gail writes: "We read this every year and it has become a tradition in our home."
From the inside cover:
"Christmas!" said Bess softly. To her the wonder of Christmas was a kind of blue-and-gold mystery. It was true it wouldn't be Christmas without a turkey...and Papa said that they would have to choose between a turkey and a few small gifts. But could it still be Christmas with no packages to wrap on Christmas Eve, no secrets to share--and on Christmas morning no bulging stockings or exciting bundles?
Of course there was still the feeling of crisp, cold starlight, of bells chiming. Christmas dinner, with turkey and everything that goes with it...and best of all, her sister, Martha, was almost well and would soon be home from the hospital. But Bess felt very strange, all the same. . .
This it the perfect book to read aloud--a book for every child who has ever asked, "What was it like in the olden times when you were young, Mother?"--and also for every adult who cherishes the memory of Christmases long ago. It is an enchanting story about a family who makes Christmas come true in a time of troubles, and of a little girl how learns that the shape and color of Christmas are made up of love given and received.
Marguerite de Angeli, as all her devoted readers know, has her own special way of communicating wonder and magic in her writing and illustrations. She has never done so more beautifully than in this true story of her own childhood--written for her grandchildren and their children--with all the warmth and reality of happy recollection. ($amzn)
Donna-Jean Breckenridge lists these books as some her family enjoys each year:
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J.Lynch - A little boy and his widowed mother break through to a widower's heart one Christmas as he carves for them each piece of Nativity set. The language is rich and rhythmic, and the artwork is beautiful. In my mind, it unfolds like an exquisitely filmed Christmas movie! ($amzn)
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson - A young boy is caught in a snowstorm in the mountains, and takes shelter in a cabin his own grandfather built years before. The woman living there cares for his hurt ankle, and tells him the Christmas story through the entire tale of God's redemption of man. The narrative is expansive, and focuses on the complete account of why Christ came. The artwork - including one of a mantel that is in the Grahams' own North Carolina home - is lush and imaginative, and much of it (including that of creation, the angel with the flaming sword, the flood, Moses and Pharaoh, Samson, the shepherds on the hillside, the announcing angels, and the crucifixion) lingers with the reader. ($amzn)
And don't forget the Christmas portions of favorite classics.
Christmas with Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, illustrated by Russ Flint - This was put out by Ideals Publishing in 1986, and it takes the portions of "Little Women" that tell when the sisters gave their Christmas breakfast to a poor family, and later opened their own special gifts, including their little Bibles. "Merry Christmas, Marmee! Many of them! Thank you for our books; we read some, and mean to every day," they cried, in chorus. ($amzn)
A Little House Christmas, Holiday Stories from the Little House Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams - This was put out by Harper Collins in 1994, and is a lovely large paperback (with the familiar illustrations having a colored hue to them). But even without it, Christmas chapters from the different books can be read, such as "Christmas" (from "Little House in the Big Woods"), "Mr. Edwards meets Santa Claus" (from "Little House on the Prairie"), and "The Christmas Horses," "A Merry Christmas," "Surprise," "The Fourth Day," and "Christmas Eve" (from "On the Banks of Plum Creek").($amzn)
The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott is a collection of three of her Christmas stories, newly discovered and published by Honor Books. Stories are The Quiet Little Woman, Tilly's Christmas and Rosa's Tale. ($amzn)
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. (Simon and Shuster) - A modern tale of mystery, of long-ago grief, of the love of parents for children, of choices. A truly beautiful story. ($amzn)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (1972). There is no other Christmas story like this. It makes me laugh until I can't breathe anymore; then it makes me cry with new understanding at the miracle of Christmas. In fact, it's not Christmas until I read this, and hear again Gladys' shout, "HEY! Unto you a child is born!" ($amzn)
Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide a new favorite! ($amzn)
Christmas and New Years' Poems
Raising Patriotic Kids: US History Through Holidays
By Donna-Jean A. Breckenridge
Charlotte Mason spoke of a "rational, well-considered patriotism," that was informed by the reading of history. History and patriotism are linked - and one way that parents can connect the two is through a commemoration of American holidays.
Simply noting the holiday and taking a few minutes to emphasize it is sufficient. But sometimes we don't plan ahead of time to do that, or to gather our thoughts (or materials) to make that easier. Hopefully, this will be a help.
First, I've listed some general resources and where you can locate them. Then I've listed each holiday starting in September, along with some ideas, including copywork or poetry, that can be included on those special days.
Children's Books: "Why America Matters," by Dr. Ben Carson; "America, A Patriotic Primer," by Lynne Cheney.
Music: America's patriotic songs can be found on Youtube or other music sources. Some to include are "The Star Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful," "My Country, 'tis of Thee," "God Bless America," songs of the different branches of the military, "You're a Grand Old Flag," "This is My Country," "This Land is Your Land," more modern songs like Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" and Neil Diamond's "America," and marches like John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" and anthems like Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." Adding patriotic songs to your folk song and hymn rotation is a way to teach these songs.
Copies of Historical Documents: These can be bought at gift shops of historical sites or online.
Holiday posters: If you decorate your classroom, you can find these at teacher supply stores or online
Flashcards of Presidents: These can be found in places like Staples, teacher supply stores, or online
Other books: Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series"; Childhood of Famous Americans series, Heroes of Liberty series.
Videos: Learn Our History, by former governor Mike Huckabee; This is America, Charlie Brown and others in the 8 video series (you can sometimes find them online or on DVD).
Additional Patriotic Songs: These are links to AO mom Hannah Fridenmaker's folksandhymns YouTube channel.
My Country, 'Tis of Thee ∘
America The Beautiful ∘
Local places: Consider what historical sites are near you. There are many you might not have thought about. For example, those within about 200-250 miles of my home include: Washington's Headquarters in Morristown, NJ; Grover Cleveland's Birthplace in Caldwell, NJ; Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island; Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, NJ; Monmouth Battlefield State Park (Molly Pitcher), NJ; Washington Crossing State Park, NJ; U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY; Valley Forge National Park, PA; Historic Speedwell, NJ; Fosterfields, NJ; Historic Philadelphia (Independence Hall, etc.), North Bridge - Minute Man National Historical Park (Concord, Mass.); Antietam National Battlefield (Sharpsburg, Maryland), Washington, D.C.: all the monuments, plus the Smithsonian.
http://www.fieldtrip.com has a listing of sites for CT, NJ, NY, PA, DE, and MD. Look for others near you.
Website with information and prayer requests for American leaders:
Holidays and Simple Traditions to Link With Them
Labor Day (1st Monday in September)
On this day, we celebrate the right to work and the importance of work. It's a good day to learn about the trades, and to show appreciation for family members or friends in the trades, set up family chores for the school year, or do a family work project.
Poem to read/copy: Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing"
Quote to read/copy: John F. Kennedy from his 1961 Inaugural Address: "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Patriot Day (September 11th)
September 11, 2001, is the day that Islamic terrorists attacked the United States by hijacking four planes and sending them into major buildings: two in New York City, one in Washington, D.C., and a fourth one which passengers thwarted and which crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It is a day to tell the stories of what we now call "9/11," if you remember, or hear stories from others who do.
Tell the stories of the heroes of 9/11; pray for the President and those fighting against terrorism; visit a 9/11 memorial - the one near my home is here; honor the 2,977 people who died that day.
Quote to read/copy: George W. Bush, from his September 20th, 2001 Address to Congress: "We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail."
Books to read: It's out of print now, but "The Little Chapel that Stood" by A. B. Curtiss is excellent. It is a children's book about 9/11, and about St. Paul's Chapel, a Revolutionary War era church at Ground Zero that withstood the attack and became a safe haven for workers at the site throughout those early days and that entire first year. It starts "Around the Chapel of Old St. Paul/Blow the dancing leaves of the coming Fall./In the morning breeze they leap and fly/Beneath the towers that scrape the sky...). Older students and parents can read Lisa Beamer's "Let's Roll" (her husband was one of the heroes on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania) and Chaplain Ray Giunta's "God @ Ground Zero."
Constitution Day (September 17th; some call this Citizenship Day)
From the website below, "Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who are born in the U.S. or by naturalization have become citizens."C
This Constitution Day site has a great deal of information on this holiday.
Read/copy the Preamble to the Constitution: "We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
This holiday officially celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus and his ships in the Americas on October 12,1492.
It is also a holiday that recognizes the contributions of Italian-Americans throughout history. Some states celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day, in place of or in addition to Columbus Day.
An interesting take on Columbus Day and how to view it is here on Prager U for parents to consider.
Also of interest: Rev. Francis Bellamy had been part of the effort to lobby Congress and later President Benjamin Harrison to proclaim Columbus Day as a holiday. In 1892 at the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World, Bellamy was asked to write a pledge to the flag as part of the children's program. It was recited by children all across America.
Quote of Columbus: "Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World. I have come to believe that this is a mighty continent which was hitherto unknown. By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination."
Election Day (according to the Congressional statute, "the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November")
This is a day to celebrate the right to vote; the best way to do that is to take your children with you to vote!
Historical note: Black men were granted the right to vote in 1870, with the passage of the 15th amendment. However, there were many obstacles to this becoming a reality. Women won the right to vote through the 19th amendment in 1920. The 24th amendment of 1964 prohibited the use of poll taxes (one of those aforementioned obstacles), and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 enforced the amendments to allow for actual voting rights. Eighteen-year-olds won the right to vote as a result of the 26th amendment in 1971.
Learn how and when to register to vote in your state.
Quote to read: Patrick Henry in 1775 - "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, God Almighty! I know not what course others may take but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."
Veterans Day (November 11th - originally Armistice Day, signaling the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month ending of World War I)
Talk to veterans from your family, neighborhood, or church, and learn their stories. Write a thank you note to a veteran.
Quote (Elmer Davis, American journalist): "This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."
Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday of November)
This is a time to teach the history behind the holiday and the importance of freedom of religion and freedom to worship.
Read/copy the Mayflower Compact (it's surprisingly short), and learn about its importance as a founding document.
Books to read to young children: "Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving" by Eric Metaxas, "Sarah Morton's Day, A Day in the life of a Pilgrim Girl," and "Samuel Eaton's Day, A Day in the life of a Pilgrim Boy," both by Kate Waters (Scholastic). Also read sections from original accounts of the Pilgrims: William Bradford's "Of Plymouth Plantation," and Edward Winslow's "Mourt's Relation.
Quotes from Mayflower Compact: "In the name of God, amen." "Having undertaken for the glory of God in the advancement of the Christian faith." "Do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presents of God and one another covenant and combine ourselves into a civil body politic."
Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January; actual date: January 15th)
This is a day to honor Martin Luther King, the minister and Civil Rights leader who received the Nobel Peace prize for nonviolent resistance in combating racism.
View his "I have a Dream" speech here.
Quote to read: from his August 28,1963 speech "When we allow freedom [to] ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!' "
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (third Sunday in January)
This is a day to emphasize the value of each life - born and unborn - in America, including those with disabilities, and those individuals that other societies have deemed worthless.
Quote to read: Ronald Reagan, 1988 "[I ask] all citizens of this blessed land to . . . give thanks for the gift of life they enjoy and to reaffirm their commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of every human life." (declaring National Sanctity of Human Life Day)
Donate items to a local Crisis Pregnancy Center and look for other ways to help pregnant women in need; talk about good ways adoption has affected your family or that of someone you know.
Websites to consider: http://www.specialolympics.org and; http://www.joniandfriends.org/
Lincoln's Birthday (February 12th)
Poem to read: "Lincoln" by Nancy Byrd Turner
Books to read: "Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers" by Karen B. Winnick; "Abe Lincoln's Hat" (Step into Reading) by Martha Brenner; "Abraham Lincoln" by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire.
Quote to read/copy: from Gettysburg Address "That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Website for parents/older students:
Washington's Birthday (February 22nd)
Poem to read: "Washington" by Nancy Byrd Turner
Book to read: "George Washington" by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire and "Farmer George Plants a Nation" by Peggy Thomas.
Quote to read/copy: Henry Lee about Washington, "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Website for parents: http://www.mountvernon.org
Presidents Day (third Monday in February)
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 moved Washington's Birthday to the third Monday in February. Within a couple of years, this became known as Presidents Day. However, at the federal level, it is still officially Washington's Birthday.
Display a chart of presidents (or look at different presidents with flashcards). Learn what president may have been born in your state, or may have lived there.
Write a letter to the current president (or other living presidents) and pray for the president and vice president. Learn who was the president when each of your family members were born.
Parents' website: http://www.presidentialprayerteam.org
National Day of Prayer (first Thursday in May)
Pray at noon with your town, if it is established (or work to establish it).
Quote to read/copy: First amendment "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Armed Forces Day (Third Saturday of May)
Songs to sing: Look up the songs of each branch of the military.
Find the names of some people in the military - perhaps family members of people in your church or in your neighborhood. Write a letter to a serviceman or woman.
Quote to read/copy: George W. Bush: "Freedom will be defended."
Memorial Day (May 30th, or last Monday in May)
Poem to read/copy: "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae
Book to read (with activity to consider): "America's White Table," by Margot Theis Raven, about the practice of setting a table for those missing in action or held as prisoners of war. This can also be read at Veterans Day.
Decorate a military grave. Buy a poppy from a veteran (and thank them for their service).
Attend - or even make - a neighborhood parade.
The National Memorial Day Concert is held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and it is aired live from Washington, D.C., on PBS television and online. It honors the military service and sacrifice of all men and women who serve the United States of America.
Quote: "Freedom is never free."
Flag Day (June 14)
Recite the Pledge of Allegiance
Song to sing: National Anthem - "Star-Spangled Banner."
Books to read: "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key, illustrated by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire; "The Story of the Star-Spangled Banner" (Cornerstones of Freedom) by Natalie Miller.
Learning flag etiquette is very important. You can find that here.
Juneteenth (June 19th)
Juneteenth is America's newest federal holiday (2021), but it's been around for a long time. On January 1, 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the end of slavery in the states that had left the union. The proclamation made clear the goal of the war. However, it took two and a half more years, until after the end of the war, for news of freedom to reach slaves in Galveston, Texas. That happened on June 19th, 1865. The holiday's name is a portmanteau word formed from the date.
Note: the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery was ratified and added to the US Constitution on December 6, 1865.
Book to read: "All Different Now," by Angela Johnson, a beautiful picture book describing that day in Galveston.
Independence Day (July 4th)
What a day! John Adams said this about America's Independence Day in a letter to his wife Abigail, "It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
Read the Declaration of Independence.
Books to read: Lynn Curlee's "Liberty" (about the Statue of Liberty); for parents/older students: "Our Sacred Honor," by William Bennett.
Quote to read/copy: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."