Appreciating the Lunar New Year
by Charles Wang on Friday, February 10th, 2012
The Lunar New Year is a holiday celebrated by Chinese and Koreans around the world. The first day of the New Year is typically celebrated by simply eating, sleeping, and enjoying the company of loved ones. This celebration is meant to determine how the rest of the year will unravel, and thus the Chinese believe that doing any sort of work on this day will bring bad luck for the rest of the year. This year, the Lunar New Year fell on January 23rd – the first day of exams.
Needless to say, Asian parents and students were less than thrilled to discover that the first day of the Lunar New Year would be filled with stress and work. Many wonder if Milton would ever even considered scheduling exams on some other religious or cultural holiday such as Yom Kippur or Good Friday.
40% of the upper school student body is made up of minority groups, the largest being the Asian minority, Koreans and Chinese in particular. The Jewish community makes up a smaller percentage of the student body, yet some Jewish holidays are celebrated at Milton with a day off from school. Milton Academy claims that, “appreciating respective cultures is an invaluable aspect of a true education,” as stated on their “Embracing Diversity” webpage, so shouldn’t the Lunar New Year be celebrated along with other holidays?
Thanks to the efforts of Asian Society and Mrs. WuWong, Milton has respected the Lunar New Year holiday by allowing certain approved students to celebrate. While the Lunar New Year is slowly gaining respect as a significant holiday in our community, it has yet to be fully appreciated. Milton must extend the holiday to all students, not just those who celebrate it, just as it has with Jewish and Christian holidays.
Last year, while trying to remedy the problem, Milton actually made it worse by declaring that all Asian students and devoted members of Asian Society could request the day off. Milton’s course of action was harmful and ignorant in many ways.
First of all, the Lunar New Year is typically only celebrated by Chinese and Korean people, not all Asians. Not only did Milton ignorantly declare that all Asians celebrate the Lunar New Year, but they also excluded non-Asians from participating in the cultural celebration. In one action the school both generalized one group of people and discriminated against another.
Secondly, by giving students the option of taking the day off, the deans were disadvantaging those students who celebrated by putting them in the situation of having to make up work they missed. As many students will acknowledge, taking a day off from school only creates more stress and often causes students to fall further behind on work.
Of course the school cannot be blamed in its entirety; fitting an extra holiday into the school year is no easy task. However the fact of the matter is that times have changed; the demographics of Milton have changed; now, the school calendar needs change.
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