Should There Be School on Cultural Holidays?

Mrigank Dhingra and Avni Rathi

Every year, students show support for major cultural holidays, such as Diwali and Lunar New Year. On Oct. 24, for example, numerous students dressed in Indian attire to celebrate Diwali. Many students believe that Asian holidays warrant a day off on the Lexington Public Schools calendar.

“Diwali wasn’t just an average Monday, it was a huge holiday that we were all celebrating and taking part in,” Tiara Biswas, a junior, said.

Christian and Jewish holidays are typically permitted days off because many staff members and students observe these holidays. Since LHS has a large Asian student population, some believe the school should also represent Asian cultural observances.

“43 percent of this school is Asian,” Biswas said. “You look at any class in LHS and a huge amount of people will be Asian… There is no such understanding for other cultural holidays, even though such a big part of our school population is Asian.”

Biswas says that the lack of acknowledgment of Asian holidays harms students.

“We have these [holidays]that we need to participate in and having school on these events on the same day hinders that,” Biswas said. 

Cultural holidays allow people to embrace their roots and celebrate at home with family and friends. However, many cannot plan and participate in these events because of the stress from courseloads. 

“It’s supposed to be a holiday,” Biswas said.

However, when homework is given on the day of a cultural observance, some teachers still expect it to be completed. As a result, students are forced to choose between celebrating their culture and identity or falling behind on classwork and homework. 

Administrators have noticed that students are disappointed about how cultural observances are allocated and acknowledge that not all cultural observances are given days off.

“When you look at the list of observances, we would never have school,” Johnny Cole, the Director of Equity & Student Support, said. 

While the school cannot add or remove holidays to the school calendar, administrators have tried to create a fairer environment for all students by not specifying whether a day off is a federal or religious holiday.

“At least by removing the terminology on the calendar, there was a little less favoritism happening towards one group over another,” Cole said. 

It is important for the administration to directly acknowledge a wider array of cultural holidays. Beyond giving a day off from school, this can entail planning morning announcements or email blasts to acknowledge cultural holidays, or even decorating the school campus.

At LHS, where uniqueness is celebrated, students deserve greater cultural and religious representation.