Dear JH Classical Academy Parents,
Thanksgiving is the oldest American Holiday. The first Thanksgiving was held almost 400 years ago in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. William Bradford and the Pilgrims prayed in times of trouble and gave thanks in times of plenty. They established a time of fasting in the spring, followed by prayer and thanksgiving in the fall. The spirit of profound gratitude for life and provision pervades the narratives from the Pilgrims and Colonists during those hard times.
America’s first national day of Thanksgiving occurred on September 25, 1789. It was the nation’s first official act set by Congress after that body completed the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our Founders wanted to thank God for the new nation, under freedom, they had just established. President George Washington issued the first federal Thanksgiving proclamation “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
However, Thanksgiving did not become an annual event in America until the time of President Abraham Lincoln. Sarah Josepha Hale, a popular women’s magazine editor from Boston, began her advocacy for the national holiday in 1846 and sustained the effort for seventeen years before it was successful. President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863 as a day of Thanksgiving. “It has seemed to me fit and proper that the gracious gifts of the Most High God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
That day of Thanksgiving in 1863 was remarkable because it was held during a time in which the Union Army had been losing battle after battle for three extremely brutal and bloody years of the Civil War. And, it was a pivotal time in Lincoln’s personal life. Several months earlier, the Battle of Gettysburg had resulted in more than 50,000 casualties – in a single battle. President Lincoln told an Illinois clergyman that it was while walking among the thousands of graves at Gettysburg that he first committed his life to Christ:
“When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.” That dedication was visible in his public pronouncements and actions for the remainder of his short but impactful presidency. He was able to energize and mobilize the nation by appealing to its best ideals, while acting with malice towards none in pursuit of a more perfect, more just, and more enduring Union.
Thankfulness in times of need and plenty, and in remembrance of our sin and God’s mercy, is the true spirit of America and the root of our freedom. I am so appreciative that out of the first 12 weeks of school, only 2 weeks required a transition to virtual learning during this COVID pandemic. I’m thankful for all the parents, who have been vigilant and flexible alongside us during these unprecedented times. It has required unwavering patience, relinquishment, and resolve. I am grateful to God for His provision and protection over our Academy. Our academic program has remained strong and provided stability and delight for students.
Please read the reminders below and carefully mark your calendars. There are two important dates when school is closed for a faculty-in-service day and the lower school parent-teacher conferences. Most exciting is the outdoor Grand Opening of our new Nordic and skate-skiing track and our new skating rink! Finally, our traditional Ceremony of Carols has been re-envisioned and will be delivered to your in-boxes for a special hour celebration of Christmas for you to enjoy comfortably at home with family -- and your performers!
Overwhelmed with gratitude,
Polly J. Friess
Head of School