Diverse religious holidays at OHS should be respected

OHS+students+and+staff+celebrate+a+variety+of+holidays+that+should+all+be+respected.

Designed by Jonny Clubb

OHS students and staff celebrate a variety of holidays that should all be respected.

Jonny Clubb, Writer

Each school year, holidays both religious and secular come and go. Some are celebrated while others, it seems, are hardly acknowledged. The topic of which holidays get recognized and which ones do not is rarely, if ever, discussed. Whether any holiday, and if so which ones, should be recognized or celebrated in public schools is a complex question.

There is very little case law on celebrating religious holidays in public schools. However, what there is provides valuable advice. According to Freedom Forum Institute, part of Florey vs. Sioux Falls School District reads, “It is accepted that no religious belief or nonbelief should be promoted by the school district or its employees, and none should be disparaged. Instead, the school district should encourage all students and staff members to appreciate and be tolerant of each other’s religious views.”

With that in mind, there are many factors that go into determining how each holiday should be handled. One of the biggest factors is determining whether the holiday is truly religious, or if it has morphed into something secular. The population of the group that celebrates the holiday must also be considered. Finally, the wishes of the group that celebrates the holiday must be respected as well. 

It is accepted that no religious belief or nonbelief should be promoted by the school district or its employees, and none should be disparaged. Instead, the school district should encourage all students and staff members to appreciate and be tolerant of each other’s religious views.”

— Florey vs. Sioux Falls School District

A prime example of a religious holiday that has become more secular is Christmas. At its heart Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. However, in today’s secular society Christmas is a gift giving holiday where the focus is mainly on secular traditions such as Santa and his elves and other family traditions. Many may choose not to celebrate the birth of Christ. This trend can be seen at OHS in things such as HoHo Bingo and the Christmas trees in the commons. The secularity of Christmas is the reason it is able to be celebrated at OHS. According to a Magnet poll, 96% of OHS celebrates Christmas. Many students enjoy OHS traditions, but feel they could be better. Junior Garrett Buryska said, “I think the traditions are good, but they could be better. Everyone celebrates something around Christmas time and I think that other religions have grown to just celebrate their own religion, understanding that a lot more people celebrate Christmas.”

The number of people who celebrate a certain holiday also factors into how it is acknowledged or celebrated. At OHS there are relatively few Jewish and Hindu students, so holidays such as Yom Kippur and Holi are not really celebrated. However, it would be a good step to recognize those holidays either in a Compass newsletter or over the announcements. 

I think it would be awesome if we bring some Muslim holiday traditions to OHS. I could bring some of the foods we use. Everybody’s happy around Eid.”

— Ms. Fathia Ali

The wishes of the group that celebrates a certain holiday should also be respected. OHS has a sizable Muslim population, yet holidays like Ramadan and Eid are hardly recognized in the building. Somali Success Coach Ms. Fathia Ali said, “I think it would be awesome if we bring some Muslim holiday traditions to OHS. I could bring some of the foods we use. Everybody’s happy around Eid.” There are many ways to give a holiday more recognition. Again, one of the easiest ways to do so is mention it in a Compass newsletter or on the announcements. Students could also form a group to bring a new tradition surrounding the holiday to OHS.

Many holidays, religious or not, are celebrated each school year. Each of these holidays is celebrated in its own way for its own reasons. The current method we use to celebrate these holidays may not be perfect, but it helps to bring joy and variety to the school year. If any changes to the current system are to be made it should be to include the celebration of more holidays, not less. In the meantime it is important that everyone acknowledge, respect and celebrate the diversity of holidays and traditions of OHS students and staff.