School calendar dims holiday spirit

This is an image of a candle in a bowl.

Celebrating a religious holiday should not be a privilege, but rather a right everyone can enjoy. Many times throughout my life I felt the need to choose between school and my religion, which became difficult to compromise as my classes got harder and my workload heavier. 

The intricate details of festivals I used to celebrate full-out with my family became simpler, more compact rituals that I could rush through in time to catch the bus. Religion is one of the only aspects that makes me feel connected to my culture, but that connection has wavered one too many times due to my fear of tainting my attendance record.

Though it is unrealistic to expect all religions to get days off, especially for long festivals or celebrations, there should be leniency put on students observing their religion while working hard in school, which can be done through implementing religious exemption days.

Building in religious exemption days to the school calendar would grant students excused absences to observe their religious holidays. This would also let teachers know to schedule important academic activities such as tests and projects around these days to minimize stress for students utilizing the religious exemptions.

Religious traditions hold a lot of weight, which is why it is so hard to balance with school. Even though I might physically be at school, my mind is overwhelmed with planning out the logistics of my day, trying to carve out time for my Hindu traditions while balancing my GPA. 

“It’s tricky because we get schoolwork, but we have to celebrate as well, so we have to make that up,” Jibran Bokhary (10), who practices Islam, said. 

Schoolwork has become a disruptor in practicing traditions that are important to many, but it is clear who is at an advantage. Winter break, centered around Christmas, spans over the course of 12 days, when modern Christmas celebrations typically only take place over two days.

Hindu, Islamic, and Jewish holidays all require several consecutive days of religious dedication, but with the workload that comes with school and little leeway given to devote time to these traditions, it’s hard to achieve that. 

Depriving students of their ability to practice something close to their culture leaves them preoccupied during school, hindering their academic abilities. When I have tests around the time of Diwali or Navaratri, it is very difficult to keep my grades up as I balance studying and celebrating. 

“Something I might want to have off is Navaratri…because our parents have a lot of work to do those days, so I could help around the house more,” Hanshika Kumar (9), a Hindu student, said. 

Navaratri is a Hindu holiday that lasts over the course of nine days, each one requiring equal attention for the unique traditions that occur on each day. The traditions are not ones that can be rushed or looked over, likewise to any religion’s celebrations. 

When students are pushed academically while simultaneously trying to keep up with their culture, it creates an unfair disadvantage when compared to those who get to enjoy their holiday experience without the impending threat of grades dropping. 

Additionally, the school should create an environment that seeks to embrace every culture, instead of alienating those that differ, which can only add to a student’s stress.

There is also a lack of decorations for other holidays. I think the school needs to work on the education of other holidays and pronunciation,” Sophia Rose (12), a member of the Jewish Student Union, said.

Doing something as simple as putting up holiday decorations that are inclusive of every religion is one step forward on the path of embracing religious differences. 

asianflagsIn a poll of 104 students, 51.9% of respondents said they do not practice Christianity, while 32.7% said they feel as though they have to pick between celebrating a religious holiday and keeping up with school. It’s important these students are heard and given the same amount of grace and freedom to embrace their traditions as their Christian peers.