Under the mission “Youth from Every Quarter,” Andover attempts to acknowledge the di- versity of religions on campus by celebrating a wider range of reli- gious holidays every year. While religion could be celebrated in many forms, religious holidays often signify a day devoted solely to spiritual pratice and reflec- tion.
As a result, this Wednesday, all classes were cancelled to honor Yom Kippur, considered by many to be the most impor- tant holiday in the Jewish faith.
The Phillipian asked com- munity members about their opinions on the celebration of religious holidays during the school year. Students had varied thoughts about how Andover should embrace a wider range of religious celebration.
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Moumina Khan ’19 expressed her appreciation for the school’s effort in recogninzing Muslim communities on campus. The school, for the first time, can- celled all classes on September 12 this year in recognition of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. Khan described how the absense of classes allowed her to focus solely on spritual practice.
“As a Muslim who celebrates Eid al-Adha… [celebrating] this was a very big deal for me. Last year, I had to take the day off, missing classes… but I am very grateful the school gave the day off for the whole school this year,” said Khan in an email to The Phillipian.
Some students, however, de- scribed the challenges they face in celebrating certain religious holidays that coincide with school days. Currently, Andover still holds classes on numerous
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holidays such as Buddha’s Birth- day, Diwali, and Lunar New Year. In contrast, the school organizes special schedules for the Chris- tian holiday of Good Friday, hav- ing students attend shortened periods of classes.
Paige Busse ’19, from West- field, N.J., pointed out how hav- ing school on important holi- days force some students to miss classess, which burdens them with loads of work to catch up. Busse, who observes Good Fri- day, stated how students should not sacrifice their academics for personal belief.
“I wish that we had Good Fri- day off. For [those who observe], Holy Thursday and Good Friday are the most holy days of the year. Even Christmas isn’t as im- portant,” she said.
“It’s very difficult to miss a day of school because you have to catch up on all your work. It makes it inconvenient, and it makes you choose between your academic and religious life… So do you sacrifice your academic life for your beliefs?” she continued.
In addition to missing class- es, some students described how religious rituals often im- pact academic performance. For instance, this year the Muslim holy month of Rama- dan coincides with the end of the school year, requiring that the Muslim community fast during the Extended Period Week when students are given major assignments.
“Although I understand it is too late for anything to be done now, the coming years will see Ramadan falling earlier and earlier during the school year – it moves back eleven days every year. I hope that in the coming years, some measures will be taken to help those fasting during the long, warm school hours,” said Khan.
Others emphasized that the school should cancel classes on cultural holidays as stu- dents deserve to spend time with their family on such oc- cassions. With an increas- ing number of students with
different ethnic and national backgrounds, Andover did not include cultural holidays such as the the Lunar New Year, a day widely celebrated in mul- tiple East and South East Asian countries.
Kaitlin Kan ’18, hailing from Villanova, Pa., said, “I’m gener- ally happy with how the school handles different holidays, and how they schedule it into the master schedule… though, my one wish is that the school can consistently have Chinese New Year off or work it somehow into the long winter break so I can go home and spend it with my family.”
Busse suggested that the school could accomodate for more religious and cultural holidays by adding school days to the end of the academic year.
“We have a three-month- long summer break. If we had one more week of classes, it wouldn’t be the end of the world… I know that a lot of kids express that we have a short- ened year, but to have days off in the middle of the term would be so much easier to manage,” said Busse.
“Even for kids who are not religious, the [days off ] are beneficial. It is a time for them to reflect and practice mindful- ness,” Busse continued.
Rajesh Mundra, Assistant Dean of Students, discussed
how the school, promoting eq- uity and inclusion, is open to embracing more discussions on which holidays are significant.
“Over the years, the school has been more sensitive to acknowledging student back- grounds and especially, reli- gious backgrounds… When you have ‘Youth from Every Quar- ter’, we have youth from many different backgrounds, many different faiths, many different beliefs… The school is under- standing of people’s personal time to observe different faith traditions and celebrate tradi- tions,” he said.
“I think the administration would be open to hearing more from students and from faculty about how to better support students… It’s an ongoing dis- cussion, and I think it’s an im- portant discussion to have,” he continued.
Mundra further emphasized how celebrating holidays is not only limited to recognition and understanding on campus.
“The school is not only just celebrating within our commu- nity and understanding what these holidays mean, but also giving time off to students to be able to celebrate with their families or in their own way with our own resources or the resources in town,” Mundra concluded.