Memorial day is the American holiday for remembering people who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. armed forces. After the Civil War, Decoration Day was among one several days marked to honor the fallen but they all eventually merged into what we know as Memorial Day. This holiday is held on the last Monday in May and is often celebrated with parades, parties, and moments of silence. Cemeteries will be decorated with flags, flowers, and personal mementos by family members.
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Many schools in the U.S. require that students know the meaning and history of national holidays. To share more information about this holiday with your elementary children, read them these books:
- Let’s Get Ready for Memorial Day, Lloyd G. Douglas
- Memorial Day Surprise, Teresa Golding
- The Wall, Eve Bunting
- Memorial Day, Christin Ditchfield
Looking for an activity to celebrate the holiday and learn a bit more about the history? Here are a few ideas:
- Write a letter to a thank you letter to someone currently serving in the armed forces.
- Research the U.S. military and the different ways in which a soldier can serve. Create an organizational chart with a brief description of each branch and then list some of the jobs available in each section.
- Visit a nursing home or neighbor and ask what they remember about our countries wars. Write down their responses. Then, write a thank you letter thanking them for their time.
- Make a list of each war and the dates. Then, visit a cemetery and try to find someone who fought or died in each war. Leave flowers at three graves (if allowed by the cemetery.
- Flag activities! Make a flag out of tissue paper balls, construction paper, or fabric. Research the history of our flag. Read a book about Betsy Ross. Learn a new song about the flag. Go out as a family and buy an American flag for your front door.
Easter is a big cultural holiday in America. Most children have the opportunity to go to an egg hunt, get a basket of goodies from the Easter Bunny, or see trees covered in plastic eggs while driving down the street. But, what are the origins of the holiday? Easter Sunday, celebrated in Christian churches, celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some churches choose to refer to the holiday as Resurrection Day because of the pagan origins of some Easter celebrations.
For those interested in learning about the cultural traditions, here are some children’s books to read aloud:
- The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, Mike and Jan Berenstain
- Fancy Nancy’s Elegant Easter, Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser
- God Gave Us Easter, Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant
- What is Easter, Michelle Medlock Adams and Amy Wummer
Of course, even children who are not being raised in a Christian religious tradition can benefit by learning about the customs and the history behind the holiday. Easter also links to Passover in the Jewish calendar due to timing and some similar symbolism. In addition, there are plenty of links with Egyptian, Greek, and Roman stories as well.
Compare and Contrast Christmas Stories and Traditions
Christmas is an opportunity to compare holiday celebrations around the world. The following books explore different stories and traditions around the world. Read the books and find a fun activity to do together while talking about the importance of culture and traditions and finding ways to connect these stories to the stories in your own family. Christmas is a religious holiday and many of these books reflect that. Those from other religious traditions can compare these stories to those in their own religion.
Reference the Common Core Standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.9 Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
- Christmas Around the World, Jeff Carnehl and Brenda Trunkill
- Christmas Around the World, Mary D. Lankford, Karen Dugan, and Irene Norman
- The Legend of the Poinsetta, Tomie de Paolo
- Lucia, Saint of Light, Katherine Bolger Hyde
- Babushka, Sandra Ann Horn
- The Clown of the God, Tomie de Paolo
- The Give-Away, Ray Buckley
- Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel, Shirley Climo and Jane Manning
- Christmas Cards. Read about poinsetta’s and paint your own on a blank card. Or, take a photo of your painting and print off multiple copies to make your holiday cards.
- Holiday Baking. Find the recipe for lussekatter, or Lucia Cat Buns, in the book about the Saint of Light. Bake the buns with a friend.
- Clean Out the Old. Clean out your house and throw away four items for each member of the family as you get ready for holiday loot. Read Horn’s book for inspiration.
- Learn to Juggle. Read about the clown and try to learn to juggle. Find Youtube tutorials to help you. Try to juggle three apples, bars of soap, or wadded up pieces of paper.
- Create a Tradition. Read about tinsel and the give-away and then try to start your own family tradition.