Imagine this: your family is celebrating the largest holiday in your culture, and you’re about to reunite with family you haven’t seen for a while. You plan to celebrate by eating lots of food and socializing with your family; but you can’t because you have a 20-page history reading, a six-page English essay, and you have to study for a biology test, all of which are due tomorrow. Though this scenario is exaggerated a bit, nothing leaves more of a bitter taste in your mouth than doing loads of homework while the rest of your household is celebrating. This is how it is for Asian students in America, Lunar New Year, sometimes called Chinese New Year, is not a federally recognized holiday in the United States, nor is it recognized here at The Haverford School.
Typical festivities include eating food, exchanging money, and wishing for a year of prosperity.
Lunar New Year is celebrated by over one billion people worldwide. It’s the most important holiday in Chinese culture. The New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, or more simply, the final new moon of January. Lunar New Year celebrations occur for fifteen days, from the new moon to the full moon. Lunar New Year is a big deal in China, as nearly every business is shut down for these fifteen days in order for everyone to spend time with family. Typical festivities include eating food, exchanging money, and wishing for a year of prosperity. The Lunar New Year is also celebrated in South Korea and Vietnam with their own respective celebrations. To the Chinese, the Lunar New Year celebration is an integral part of Chinese culture and identity; it holds the value of any other major cultural holiday, like if Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year were all put together in one holiday.
I’m going to be honest: when I first saw the 2022-2023 academic calendar and gazed upon the calendar between the end of January and the middle of February, I felt disappointed. Many times students and even faculty have tried to talk to the school in an attempt to get a day off for Chinese/Lunar New Year, and still, year after year, no day off is warranted.
I’ve always thought to myself that surely the Asian-American demographic can’t be such a minuscule speck on the population of America to the point where our largest holiday is overlooked, right?
I’ve been celebrating Lunar New Year for my entire life, and every year when it comes to this time, I wonder to myself: why don’t we have a day off from school? Doesn’t this seem a bit absurd? Or: should I skip class today? I’ve always thought to myself that surely the Asian-American demographic can’t be such a minuscule speck on the population of America to the point where our largest holiday is overlooked, right?
Well, Asian-American demographic statistics are small, but not insignificant, making up approximately 7% of the current U.S. population, and two-thirds of East Asians celebrate Lunar New Year, and even more people of mixed Asian descent not included in the previous demographic also celebrate this holiday. Asian-American population concentrations vary by region, but the areas in which the Haverford School and students reside are most definitely not one with a lower concentration, with Philadelphia having a 7.8% Asian-American population (there is also a Chinatown here, which happens to be very lively and popular spot for celebrating Lunar New Year); Montgomery County is 8.1% Asian-American; and Chester County is 5.9% Asian-American. These demographics also exclude Asians of mixed descent. Though the Asian population in America is only around 7%, or around 20 million people, it is the fastest growing demographic in the United States, and this population is projected to quadruple by the year 2060. By that date, about 28% of Americans will be of Asian descent.
Granting a day off for Lunar New Year will also preserve student cultural diversity and pride. Ignoring Lunar New Year in an increasingly white population only ruins one’s perception of individuality and culture. The United States is a melting pot where different people come together by sharing and valuing each other’s cultures and traditions, not where everyone conforms to the socially accepted white standard. Such assimilation isn’t some super scary possibility that could happen in the future that can be prevented, this is a reality for many, not just with Asian-Americans. Some young people of color disassociate themselves with their heritage because they don’t feel like they are valued. They feel like their heritage is just a burden, and many even feel embarrassed about it; because when ignorance and downright disrespect is shown towards your culture, you simply feel like you’re not welcome in society. If Haverford were to sanction a day off, it would send the message to Asian students that an integral part of their culture is recognized by the student body as well as all faculty and board members.
Haverford accepts students of all religions and ethnicities, which means they have no reason not to warrant a day off.
Humans, by nature, want to fit in. And how do most people who don’t meet the social standard fit in? They change, and typically when change happens, something is left behind, and in this case, it’s pride in one’s culture and heritage. This year, on Lunar New Year, while I was walking to class I saw that on one of the TVs in the hallway, that it said “Happy Lunar New Year” and, honestly, as glad as I am to see that it’s being recognized, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a slap in the face.
At the Haverford School there are no shortages of days off. We have days off when public schools don’t and have breaks longer than most other schools, yet these same schools that have fewer days off than we do, still have Lunar New Year off. Haverford accepts students of all religions and ethnicities, which means they have no reason not to warrant a day off. All school districts in New York, and many schools in Iowa, Maryland, and even Pennsylvania have received a day off from school this year regarding Lunar New Year and other cultural holidays. Schools such as Conestoga and Philadelphia High School—which are very close to us—have given students and faculty a day off for Lunar New Year.
The New Year also occurs at the time where many students have midterms exams. During this period of time between mid-January and mid-February, there never seems to be a day off, and it has been like this for the five years I have attended Haverford. Continuing working without a break is mentally draining, and this is where having a day off for Lunar New Year can benefit the entirety of the Haverford community.
You must be logged in to post a comment.