I am not Christian. I am not Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Pagan. I am an atheist, yet I still celebrate all Christian holidays. Christmas in particular is easy to celebrate: everything seems to revolve around this religious holiday. Our winter break is designed to allow students to celebrate only one religious holiday, Christmas. We have no breaks for holidays of other religions besides Christianity. Not only does this support our Christian-dominated society, but it also puts other students at a disadvantage because they have to miss school for being faithful to a non-Christian religion.
Part of the reason we have school off over Christmas is that it is recognized as a national holiday. It is ridiculous that a religious holiday should be honored this way; if Christmas, a celebration with religious origin, is a national holiday, Eid should be as well. So should Hanukkah and Hmong New Year. All of these should be national holidays, or none of them should be. This “all or none” should be the same in our school as well. We solely have Christian holidays off. This gives a privilege to the Christian students that it denies to students who celebrate different holidays.
This is not acceptable. If we get Christian holidays off, we should get a variety of different holidays off. Yes, America was started by mostly Christian immigrants, but not only are we supposed to have a wall of separation between church and state, we’ve also become a nation of immigrants from every corner of the world. Instead of recognizing these societal changes and adjusting our break schedule, we continue to favoritize Christians by having breaks on solely Christian holidays.
The diversity in religious background of immigrants coming to America is mirrored in the demographics of our school. South has so many different cultures, yet it promotes only Christian ideals, beliefs, and holidays. In a survey I conducted, the majority of students said that they solely celebrated Christian holidays, namely Christmas. The problem with this is that the surveys also showed that most students did not identify as Christian. Despite the cultural diversity of South, most students with no religious affiliation gravitate towards Christmas thanks to its enormous presence in our society, and our school supports this societal tradition by only giving breaks for Christian holidays.
Christmas is a massive force in a society that allows very little room for religious growth. As an atheist, I would enjoy the option to explore different religions without missing school. This year I tried to explore religiously by celebrating Rosh Hashanah. This is something that South should be promoting because high school is an exploratory time in your life, and teenagers should be encouraged to look into other religions. But because I celebrated this holiday, I missed an entire day of school.
Our community and school is very diverse both culturally and religiously. According to the Star Tribune, Minneapolis has “the largest Somali population in the U.S., the largest Hmong population outside Laos, the second-largest Vietnamese and Ethiopian populations and one of the fastest-growing Latino/Hispanic populations.” Why, then, don’t we have any Muslim or Hmong holidays off? We should not punish students for practicing non-Christian religions by making them miss school.
Several times, the beginning of school has been on the end of Ramadan, forcing Muslim students to miss part of the first week of school. How is this fair? To be able to celebrate other religions besides Christianity, you have to miss school. Yes, you do get excused, but you have to make up a whole day of learning and any tests that you missed all because you practice a non-Christian religion.
Christianity is widely celebrated because it is easy to celebrate. Christmas is only one day and we miss several weeks of school surrounding it. Hanukkah is eight days and we get zero off. Ramadan is a whole month and how many days do we get off? Zero. We should have at least one to two days for these holidays to recognize them.
If South wants to be accepting of all religions, it needs to take days off for holidays like Eid, Hanukkah, and Hmong New Year, to name a few. Taking off days for non-Christian holidays would not cut into our learning; we could have the school year extend three days to make up for these three extra breaks. Long weekends that exist due to staff development or grading days could be strategically placed on religious holidays. The school board should not be telling us which holidays are okay and not okay to celebrate.