School holidays reflect religious biases

Christmas, Thanksgiving, Veterans’ Day—While these holidays are well-known and widely celebrated by American people, their celebrations often overshadow those of other communities present in our acclaimed mixing pot of culture.

It’s well known that breaks from school or work are typically reserved for federal holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. However, this pardon does not extend to major holidays from other religions, effectively ignoring the diversity of citizens.

For instance, Yom Kippur—an entire day dedicated to atonement and forgiveness—is considered the holiest day for those who practice Judaism. This tradition involves fasting and prayer, with followers often spending the majority of the day in synagogue services. Yet, despite the 4.2 million Americans identifying as Jewish, Yom Kippur isn’t observed as a government-excused holiday, and all students must still attend school.

Similarly, Diwali, a festival observed by Hindus celebrating new beginnings, is another holiday that doesn’t get a federal pardon from the government. The five day long tradition is typically celebrated by families through prayer, gatherings and feasts, forcing students to make the choice between their culture or education. Of course, excused absences are available, but that doesn’t change the lack of accommodation. Students who miss out on school to observe an unexcused holiday still have to catch up on their work, while one-day holidays like Christmas give students a whole two weeks off.

According to a study conducted in 2019 by the Pew Research Center, Christianity is America’s most popular religion, with its followers making up approximately 65% of the population. Minorities—religions other than Christianity—in a school sample may be scarce, but what’s important is that they still do exist. Just because their voices are talked over, doesn’t mean that there aren’t millions of people who celebrate it. Taking different traditions into consideration in education and political boards can help lessen discrimination.

With this in mind, schools in California are required to have a minimum of 180 days in a school year. Although long breaks are nice for students and teachers to relax, taking away a couple of reserved days off of long breaks would leave enough time off for other religious holidays. 

Students of all cultures and religions deserve the right to observe their practices without impairing their education. Evidently, there is bias in government-ordained holidays, contributing to the religious prejudice that people still hold today. That must change to ensure a better and more accepting future for students in America.