Schools should recognize non-Christian religious holidays


Metea Media

Co-written by Sameen Ali and Zyma Lakhani.

Around the U.S., Christian holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Good Friday are days that are allowed off from school so that families can celebrate. In a regular school year, students are allotted two weeks in honor of Christmas, although more are beginning to refer to those two weeks as winter break instead of Christmas break. Additionally, the week leading up to Easter is usually given off as well.

Although many people in the U.S. are Christian and celebrate these holidays, people of other faiths are excluded from being able to celebrate their own holy days. It should be a school’s duty to accommodate the holidays that its students and staff wish to celebrate. Schools should respect holidays that are important for other religions and cultures such as the Hindu holiday of Diwali, the Islamic holiday of Eid, the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, the Chinese Lunar New Year,  and so on.

Some states have already made progress in including each of its communities, allowing several days off for these occasions. In New York, schools close for major Jewish holidays, and as of 2015, two days are given for Muslims to observe Eid. Part of this was simply because of the numbers, with nearly 1.1 million of their schoolchildren being Muslim and their and other numbers continuing to grow across the nation with not only Islam, but other religions too.

In the top twenty five U.S. public school districts, Good Friday has been more often recognized than most civic holidays. Veterans Day, Eid, and Chinese New Year, as well as others, aren’t nearly as recognized as prominent Christian holidays; so the question from advocates is: why can they be recognized and while other religious holidays are left in the dark? Recognizing other religious holidays is important in respecting America’s diverse communities. Granted, having a wider range of religious holidays can make it harder to fit in school, but society has progressed enough to not make the goal to fit in anymore, anyways. It’s important to give other cultures their days off, or at the least, recognize them. There is also the possibility of minimizing days off to major religions or petitioning for a special holiday off if  it would take up too many school days.

Although the central issue is about how other religious holidays aren’t properly recognized as official holidays, classes not being cancelled on said days poses another problem for students and their families. Not only is there the construct of inequality towards religious holidays, students must choose between school and their religion. Although many schools accept religious holidays as an excused absence, students are often times unable to observe their respective holiday due to obligations in school, especially in high school and college. If they do choose to observe their respective holiday, they can miss vital information and lessons being taught in classes. This increases the workload and stress students already have, which ultimately puts the individual at a complete disadvantage because they simply wanted to celebrate their faith.

Many hope for change among other states after New York’s decision. Illinois is among the most religiously diverse states in the U.S., having the third highest population of Muslims, sixth highest rate of Jewish people, and eleventh highest of Hindus, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB). This begs the question: why is this not reflected in the school calendar? Many have started to demand change and signed petitions to make their holidays official. Recognizing different holidays would be a huge step forward on the path to give all communities and faiths equality.