FOREWORD BY MICHAEL ALLEN I am very happy that John De Gree’s America’s Federal Holidays is now in print. There is no other book quite like it, and it will prove extremely valuable to classroom teachers in America’s public, private, charter, and home schools. How many of today’s elementary, secondary, and college students really understand the origins and meaning of the days they get to “take off” during the school year or their summer vacations? Unfortunately, students (and sometimes their parents and teachers!) become absorbed in the joy of the impending long weekend and forget “the reason for the season,” as it were. How many of us could, off the tops of our heads, thoroughly and accurately state the historic origins of Memorial Day? New Year’s Day? And while the roots of celebrating the Fourth of July and Christmas may seem obvious, in fact there is much more to the stories of these “days off” than we know. It is thus very important to make America’s Federal Holidays part of the effort to train good citizens in our schools.
John De Gree is a seasoned classroom teacher with many years’ experience in both public and private schools. His website and curriculum, The Classical Historian, is subscribed to by thousands of public, private, homeschool, and charter school parents and teachers. And John De Gree and his wife Zdenka are parents and teachers to their own seven children. This experience is obvious in each of the pages that follow. John’s lessons on Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday, George Washington’s Birthday, and all other official federal holidays are brimming with information that will make for good classroom learning. America’s Federal Holidays will help teachers create lesson plans to use immediately prior to the respective holiday vacations.
On occasion, Americans appear more concerned with taking a well-earned vacation than pondering the reasons for the blessed event. “Blessed” is an apt term here, because all holidays stem historically from religious “days of rest” and, of course, the Sabbath. Indeed, one of the remarkable things we learn from America’s Federal Holidays is that religion and religious motives form the basis for most of our federally recognized holidays. So, the next time you get to take a three-day weekend, enjoy it! But before you do, read through John De Gree’s America’s Federal Holidays to understand why.
Michael Allen Professor of History, University of Washington, Tacoma Co-author, A Patriot's History of the United States and A Patriot's Reader #1 Bestselling New York Times Author