America’s Federal Holidays: The True Story tells the stories behind 11 federal holidays while including the religious background and connections of which many people are ignorant. This heavily-illustrated book presents one or two pages worth of text for each holiday that is probably best read aloud as a family. The target audience is ages eight and up.
The introduction to the book adds some helpful information regarding the shifting dates of many holidays that are now celebrated on Mondays as well as some general comments about the nature of holidays.
Holidays covered include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Inauguration Day, George Washington’s Birthday (celebrated as President’s Day in many states), Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas. Some of the stories include material from primary source documents. For example, in the story of Inauguration Day, excerpts from the Inaugural Addresses of five presidents are included.
Each reading is followed by ten questions based on the reading. You can use these for discussion or written work. There is no answer key since answers are relatively easy to find in the reading. Some questions will be too difficult for younger students; for example, one question from the Inauguration Day lesson asks students to paraphrase this section from Lincoln’s Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”
These questions are followed by one or more “Research or Analysis” activity suggestions that are appropriate for students about ages 12 and up. For example, one assignment has students read George Washington’s “Rules of Civility” (which they have to find themselves) and write their opinion regarding the rules (p. 25). Other activities might include research, writing, interviews, discussion, or field trips.
While other resources are available that teach about holidays established by our federal government, I don’t know of any others that include religious origins and elements (aside from Christmas and Thanksgiving) as does this book. The book presents religious connections in a neutral fashion, so it can be used by even those with no religious beliefs who want their children to learn the true origins and meanings of these holidays. While these activities might be used in a traditional classroom setting, they are ideal for homeschoolers.