MCPS Calendar Neglects Asian Holidays

By Balbina Yang, Arts Editor

With more than 4.3 billion worldwide and 15.7 percent in MCPS, Asians make up the majority of minority groups today.

Asians are not represented in many aspects of American culture. Despite their large population, there are hardly any opportunities for Asians to be represented just solely for their personalities rather than for their grades or musical abilities.

The most important and obvious example of this misrepresentation is seen primarily with the neglect of major Asian holidays by MCPS. The school system neglects Asian culture and traditions not only with its Euro-centric curriculum, but also by not honoring Asian religious holidays.
Buddhism originated in India by Prince Siddhartha in the sixth century B.C. Since then, the religion has spread throughout the globe, but remains mostly concentrated in Asia, such as the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand. My grandparents are Buddhists, and as such, one of the holidays they celebrate in South Korea is Vesak, the birth of Buddha. “Buddha Day” is a time of fasting and meditation either in temples or in the homes; this day celebrates not only Buddha’s birthday but also promotes a positive reawakening of our lives.

Of course, Buddhism is not the only religion in Asia that deserves to be recognized in the community. In India, there is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and one of the greatest holidays in the country that celebrates new beginnings and the goodness in the dark; and in Japan, there is the Shinto New Year, which commemorates milestones, such as childbirth and coming-of-age. Vesak, Diwali and Shinto New Year are but a few of the many Asian religious holidays in around the world. However, these are major holidays in their countries, but are often overlooked at school with little awareness among students that they even exist.

Despite being important holidays of the year affecting more than 15 percent of MCPS’s population, some Asian students are not granted the opportunity to miss school for their respective holidays. If MCPS takes a school day off the calendar for other religious holidays Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha, why not take one off for Diwali? Vesak? Shinto New Year?

There is not much influence of Asian culture in school as there should be. We learn about Asian history, sure, and we even have the Asian-American Club, but these are not enough to make up for the complete absence of major Asian influences. MCPS has not done anything, and it is ludicrous that the county does not allow students to celebrate their culture equally among others in the community.

CHS is a diverse school, and MCPS itself is even more so. With a conglomeration of backgrounds, cultures are bound to mix and influence other cultures. But that’s more than okay. In fact, it’s beneficial because each and every student should be given an outlet to be celebrated no matter what.

But how to do that? It can be difficult to create a balance between cultures, so that not one is overshadowed by another. In that case, MCPS should take to account the demographics of the county as a whole and, based on those statistics, should decide which to allow as days off school.

Of course, just like the United States, there are more holidays than just Buddha Day and New Years. Students are not able to, and should not miss every single holiday that occurs during the school year. Instead, the ones that honor their respective deities, should be granted a day off school. And if the schedule doesn’t permit, we could start school earlier or have fewer snow days.

Nevertheless, Asian students at CHS should feel included. It is not a matter of being proud or whiny; it is a matter of having the opportunity to celebrate one’s own culture whether in school with the community or by oneself. MCPS shouldn’t be exclusive, because every person and every culture has the right to be respected.