D128 needs holiday awareness

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As winter approaches and students pull shovels and mittens out, a lot of people also reach for the colorful lights and Christmas decorations.

Winter time is strongly associated with Christmas and Hanukkah. However, throughout the year, there are many diverse and colorful holidays that often go underlooked simply because they are not celebrated by the majority population.

Such holidays that are overlooked by schools cause students to be put at a disadvantage when choosing to celebrate their holiday. This is because holidays celebrated on a smaller scale are not given the same attention or treatment, therefore the students end up being under-represented.

Eid is as important to Muslim students as Christmas is to those who celebrate it. Diwali is important and exciting for Hindu students that celebrate it. However these students are put at a disadvantage when choosing to celebrate their holiday, and therefore end up missing school. While holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are given days off, others are not.

The district has a Calendar Board Committee which meets to plan the school calendar for upcoming years. This committee decides how to handle snow days, holidays, finals and graduation. It’s a lot of work for the committee to decide what days should be given off and which ones should be attendance days when it comes to holidays.

In a survey conducted by TSP, with 170 student responses, 97% of students claimed they celebrate religious holidays. That being said, there is a long list of holidays which students celebrate and it is not realistic to give them all off; then the school wouldn’t reach the 176 school days required by the Illinois State Board of Education. In addition this past June, the Board passed a new act to require a 5 hour minimum for the school day.

Dr. Rita Fischer, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, has been facilitating the district’s calendar committee for seven years.

“It would be challenging to have a day off from school for every holiday that a student recognizes, because there are so many,” Dr. Fischer said.

On Nov. 12, the D128 board approved the 2020-2021 school year calendar. They will now start to work on the 2021-2022 plan. The committee is planning to add student representatives to the committee next year to hear feedback from a variety of voices, according to Dr. Fischer.

The addition of students to the committee would allow for more representation, since the student population is more diverse than that of the staff’s.

Having the administration and calendar committee aware of different holidays would help benefit the students that celebrate them. It would result in an overall more inclusive school environment in which students can come to school and feel understood and accepted even if their religion/culture is not a majority group.

Illustration representing Eid

Eid

Eid is an Islamic holiday that is celebrated twice a year. Eid al-Adha comes right after the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast daily for 30 days. While Eid al-Fitr comes earlier in the year than Eid al-Adha. The holiday is long awaited and greeted with vivid lights and decorations.

The day starts off with an early morning prayer around 6 a.m., during which people head to the mosques with family and friends. Adults will usually treat kids with candies and chocolates upon their arrival to prayer.

Eid traditions include dressing in new clothes, such as dresses for little girls, styling hair, painting nails and doing henna. The goal is to be in a clean and neat appearance for the celebration. People cook multiple cultural dishes for families and friends to gather around dinner tables and spend the day together. Kids typically receive money and/or gifts from parents and close family members.

An illustration representing the holiday Diwali

Diwali

Another colorful holiday is Diwali. This is a Hindu holiday that is celebrated annually.
Avani Puranik (12) described the holiday as a time to “spend time with family, [to] just celebrate goodness and light.”

The holiday is celebrated with festivities including traditional dances like Dandiya and Garba. Garba is performed in a circle around a lantern with light inside which symbolizes the Hindu view of time and life.

In a survey conducted by TSP, results showed Diwali to be the 8th most celebrated religious holiday by students.