Bias toward Christmas ignores other holidays

Christmas is approaching and students are putting their books down and their stockings up. Along with gifts and holiday food, students can look forward to  two weeks of winter break.

This year, winter break marks the end of a semester and allows students to celebrate Christmas and the New Year without coming back to dead days and finals. During winter break, students could use this time to set up decorations to prepare for the upcoming holiday. They could take their time since they have two whole weeks to finish.

But what about the other holidays? Other cultures and religions also have important holidays but often they are not acknowledged. If a non-Christian holiday falls on a school day, students who wish to participate have to take an absence. It might not be a big deal then, but if the students miss school for two more days in a term, they will lose their final exam waiver eligibility. Even if the absence is excused, it still counts towards the penalty.

Take Lunar New Year, for example: people begin preparing about a week before the actual event. They clean up homes, set up decorations, and pay off debts in order to start the upcoming year with a fresh slate. But on Lunar New Year’s Eve, students must tuck themselves in early — not because it is a custom, but because they have school the next day. During this time, Vietnamese children miss a midnight ceremony to keep  evil spirits away and bring forth good luck. If a student chooses to participate in the New Year events, then he will not have enough to time to sleep or finish homework.

Another example is the two Eids of Islam. During Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan, Muslims must wake up early not only because it is their tradition but also because they have school or work to attend. After a month of maintaining discipline and incredible self-control, they must push themselves for about another half a day before they can carry on with their celebrations. During Eid-al-Adha, followers must make a special Eid prayer and then sacrifice a goat or cow. Students have to choose between going to school and fulfilling their duties; they would have to miss class or put aside homework to follow their beliefs.

For a country that advocates freedom of religion, other cultures are penalized while Christmas gets a long break. While America is predominantly Christian and was founded on Christian beliefs, it is also a diverse country. When immigrants come here, they bring along with them their beliefs and practices, their cultures. Without the holidays, these cultures will not gain recognition and acknowledgement. It is as if their beliefs are not acknowledged by others even though, to them, their holy day has the exact same importance as Christmas has for Christians. Without a doubt, America is moving away from being primarily Christian, yetmost of the holidays only reflect Christian beliefs. 

Many Americans lack sufficient information about the diverse cultures of their fellow Americans. Not many would be able to answer questions about Lunar New Years traditions or Eid observances.

With more breaks timed for more diverse holidays, students and adults would become more informed about the traditions of our incoming neighbors.

Of course I do not mind having two weeks off from school and I recognize the fact that we can’t just add more holidays at the snap of fingers. But we could take the week-long break of Thanksgiving and use that time for other holidays. After all, Thanksgiving was never about giving back, it was about Americans pilfering the Native Americans of their food and land.

I am not asking for a two-week long break for each and every holiday; only enough to acknowledge the existence of other cultures.