Should public schools celebrate holidays?

Valentine’s Day is the first that will pass without notice at Bruce Vento Elementary; principal cites how “the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view,” reports the Star Tribune.

School board policy regarding holidays, last revised in 2008, says that schools “shall discourage lavish programs and festivities arranged to celebrate holidays and other special days, and shall strive to eliminate them, if possible except where such observances are required by law (Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, and Veterans Day.)”

Vento will also stop celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Halloween.

Today’s Question: Should public schools celebrate holidays?

  • Charlie Hurd

    Yes, take ALL the fun out of school.

    • rabbit

      Let me see, the first month of school’s 10-month schedule is wasted because reorganization is usually required to finalize classes; the second month is half-wasted because of Halloween hysteria; the third month is cut by Thanksgiving (that one’s okay); the fourth is destroyed by rehearsals for Christmas programs and days wasted on parties (which are fun for some kids, and not for others); then, after Easter, the testing begins. Not anymore, thank goodness. There’s lots of fun at school, but sugar and “holidays” already over-emphasized in the culture are not needed.

  • Mason

    I feel bad for students there since most families don’t have the ability to send their kids to other schools. Maybe that’s why cultural gentrifiers target schools like to implement their agendas on – they know the students are essentially trapped.

  • Deb

    This is America! We have FUN “holidays” and nothing wrong with the schools doing something a little bit special on them. It makes childhood a bit special. For Heaven’s sake, don’t let us cross the line all the way into Orwell’s vision. NO comrades, we cannot have any FUN… only the fun we SAY you must have.

  • Pearly

    Yes but only in hennepin county

    • kevins

      Why only Hennepin County?

      • Pearly

        Seams like the kind of thing the citizens would fall over them self’s to run out and vote for

        • kevins

          Or rmaybe they are tired of signing those little-bitty valentines cards to give to classmates!

          • Pearly

            Yea. My 7 year old doughter realy hates that part also.

  • Gary F

    Replace them with Al Gore day, Margaret Sanger day, Karl Marx day………

  • PaulJ

    It seems sort of harsh to make southerners celebrate Lincoln’s birthday.

    • Hello? The Civil War ENDED 150 YEARS AGO…I hope you’re just posting snark

      • PaulJ

        It was meant to broach the subject that the Federal Gov’t shouldn’t be involved with local issues.

  • Sue de Nim

    Not the least bit sad to see Valentine’s Day go, nor Halloween for that matter. (I loved the way J.K.Rowling treated V-Day in the HP series.) As a Christian, I’m also not sad to lose the public schools’ necessarily secular observance of Easter. (The Easter Bunny is a pagan fertility symbol.) However, Thanksgiving and Yuletide (of which Christmas is the Christian expression) are important to our cultural heritage and should be included in the curriculum somehow. There should also be some acknowledgement of holidays that are important to significant minority groups (Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, etc.)

  • Bunnie Watson

    Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter all have origins in pre-Christian celebrations of life, death, and the cycles of the earth. So Pagans and other nonbelievers are getting the short end of the stick in this. The Church plopped their holy days on top of those earlier parties in an if-you-can’t-beat-’em effort to co-opt and convert. Religious holy days can be celebrated in tax-free churches, and the others will endure on their own merits.

    • lindblomeagles

      Bunnie is mainly correct. To Christianize the Pagans, the Catholic Church allowed Halloween celebrations to continue, but made the very next day, November 1, All Saints Day. Something similar happened to Valentine’s Day. A Pagan Festival became Saint Valentine’s Day in order to keep the Pagan’s happy. Throughout Jesus’s birth, life, and death, he is referred to as the King of Jews, not the King of Christians. His parents, Mary and Joseph, had no family or friends with them during his birth; only the strange three wise men, and they didn’t decorate a tree. While Jesus dies because a Roman, Pontius Pilate, puts him to death, its largely his own people, the Jewish middle and upper classes, that wish Pilate to do so. The Christian Church, itself, does not begin until Paul and Peter, along with many of the other Twelve Disciples start to spread it around. Even then, Christians had to be careful not to worship openly because the Romans would imprison and torture Christians until the 300s A.D. Perhaps these holidays should be more appropriately called, Fall Festival (Halloween), Spring Break (Easter), Winter Fest or Winter New Year (Christmas). Thanksgiving seems appropriate enough.

      • Sue de Nim

        It’s the other way around. Christianized pagans reinvented their holidays.

        • lindblomeagles

          Actually Sue, according to most historians, the “pagans” reflected a lot of different spiritual beliefs, including those who would leave their religion to become Christians. What is agreed upon is that Christianization was the practice of converting “pagan” beliefs, including the “pagan” calendar to Christian uses. It was Pope Gregory I who argued that conversions were easier if people were allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditions, while claiming that the traditions were in honor of the Christian God. The traditions and practices were thus allowed to continue while the rationale behind them was changed. As such, Halloween comes via the Celts. Much of the Easter celebration (candies and bunnies) comes from the Germans, and the day Easter falls is usually the first full moon after the spring equinox (though Jesus’s death is very real). Most of Europe celebrated a “midwinter festival” which fell on December 21 through New Year’s. Thus Christmas borrows from many cultures throughout Europe, including Norse, Roman, and Germanic cultures. But, it wasn’t until Washington Irving told a story about Christmas that it began to be the familiar holiday we know it here in America. It is NOT the birth of Jesus Christ as the date of Christ’s birth is not well known. As for Jesus’s family information, my information stands. There isn’t much mention of Jesus, his brothers, his sisters, or any aunts, uncles, and grandparents in his life at the time of his birth. What IS known is Jesus, and his parents, moved back and forth from Bethlehem, to Nazareth, Jerusalem, and other places as well. He was, however, Jewish. He did not call himself a Christian.

          • Sue de Nim

            I’m aware of all that, but the fact is that the redefinition of those holidays would have gone nowhere were it not for support from the people (as evidenced by the failure of All Hallows Eve to supplant Samhain, except in name only). Formerly pagan Christians, well aware than no one knew the date of Jesus’ birth, welcomed the redefinition of Yuletide as a celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Easter is another story, though. Its date is derived from the Jewish date of Passover, not from pagan traditions, and it’s only in English-speaking countries that it’s called “Easter” (a name derived from a pagan goddess), whereas the rest of the world names it Pascha (or some other word derived from Hebrew “Pessach” — passover). I’ve studied this stuff. You sound like you’ve heard someone expound on it once or twice and think you know what you’re talking about.

          • lindblomeagles

            First, Sue, I’ve studied this stuff. Don’t try and tell the universe that you’re some kind of expert when that’s not the case. Secondly, you’re obviously passionate about the Christian Church, which is why you lost track of the original question and my response to it. Bob, and a few others, singled Valentine’s Day out as the only holiday that is secular in nature, owing much to its grandiosity to our business community. In fact, several American Holidays cater to and thrive off of Christian and non-Christian Holidays, the major ones being Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, in this state Labor Day (State Fair), Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and Valentines. I’m sorry if the Christian religion isn’t the pure perfect religion you thought it was. Most history isn’t simply black or white, and that’s your problem Sue. The Christian Church has done LOTS of things that were not “Christian.” That’s why several Europeans and Americans BROKE AWAY from the Christian Church to establish their own Christian Church, a fact you want to ignore here. As for Valentine’s Day, itself, it has become a harmless winter holiday in which those who want to participate in it give a loved one or someone they think of romantically, or friends who enjoy eating candy, something nice and pleasant. It is, in practice, no different than the Christmas and Easter Holiday Celebrations you so fervently seek to justify. Let me live you with this too: you may purchase the Indianapolis Symphony’s 2016 “Yuletide” Celebration tickets on the web right now. I guess the pagan name sticks around after all.

          • Sue de Nim

            It’s kind of arrogant of you to assume you know what I believe, don’t you think? You and Bunnie were the ones who went off topic with comments about how “The Church plopped their holy days on top of” earlier pagan observances, as if it was some kind of nefarious conspiracy, when in fact it was done quite openly and with the assent of the people. Nor do I have any illusions that Christianity is a “pure, perfect religion.” In fact, I don’t know any Christians who do think that (not even radical fundamentalists of my acquaintance), so I’m puzzled how you could possibly get the idea that I might think so, unless you’ve never had any dialog with any actual thoughtful Christians (or is that an oxymoron in your view?). But don’t mind me. I’m a person of faith, which in your mind apparently means I must be stupid, all my motives are suspect and I can’t be trusted to know facts.

      • I was teaching in an after school program in North Minneapolis with African-American, Latino & Laotian children grades 6 through 8. Celebrating holidays was DISCOURAGED (not sure if it was a “rule” or not) but I chose to IGNORE that as that would have lost FUN LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES.I explained the pagan roots of Halloween/All Saint’s Day I brought in a “ghost story” that’s been traced back to Africa, brought over on the slave ships. I talked about Day of the Dead in Latin American cultures & brought the kids “scull cookies” from a local mercado. EVERY culture has a day in the year to REMEMBER LOVED ONES & ANCESTORS WHO HAVE PASSED AWAY. Sine the class I was teaching had a goal of improving reading,writing & critical thinking skills in a CREATIVE way, we had a writing exercise: remember a loved one who’s died or respond to any of the cultural material. A poem by an 11 year old African-American boy with that “enslaved ghost” talking was AMAZING, among other writings by children remembering loved ones. Plus: I did a BOOK GIVEAWAY of mysteries & ghost stories—as it’s VITAL that children have “ownership” of books in order to reinforce reading & many kids in poverty have NO books in their homes. For Thanksgiving, we focused on Native American history & culture as well as the universal/cross-cultural “harvest festivals”. Also becaue this is a day closely associated with families among together, children wrote letters to send to U.S. soldiers in Iraq & Afghanistan found on a site set up to send care packages overseas to them—which was not only about improving writing skills (they did a rough draft, edited it before writing on blank greeting cards i provided) but, also that DOING FOR OTHERS is an important value. I think it’s really LOWEST-COMMON DENOMINATOR THINKING to BAN all holidays. With creativity & a willingness to EMBRACE DIVERSITY, holdiays can provide many learning opportunities.

        • rabbit

          I would call that teaching Social Studies. You, like most teachers, are flexible and creative. That’s different than cutting out hearts, making Christmas gift clay handprint paperweights, and having Easter egg hunts. I agree with the trend abandoning day-long junk food/loud music Christmas, Valentines–whatever–parties. I also agree with creative teaching of Social Studies (also, art, music, drama, and writing).

    • Why not INCLUDE the “origins” of these holdidays that you describe so well?

  • J. Refpuz

    “One of the concerns that I have,” Masini wrote, ” … is whether or not this practice is encroaching on the educational opportunities of others and threatening the culture of tolerance and respect for all.” (from the Star Trib article)

    If tolerance and respect and are the tenets of your educational environment, why
    should all holidays be ignored? If a culture of understanding is to occur then
    it seems it would make more sense for a school to create opportunities for students to learn about each others cultures and celebrations, find the similarities
    and differences, and even find ways to celebrate where no one is marginalized.
    This certainly is not as simple of a solution, but it can be possible at a local level.
    Throwing in the towel on all celebrations seems to counteract those very principles
    of culture and understanding that we need more of. Zero tolerance or even
    acknowledgement of holidays seems to be the very sort of dogma that we trying
    to avoid. Only the strictest of religions (or governments) disallow or dictate exactly how and when celebrations should occur.

    • kevins

      I agree

    • lindblomeagles

      Agree. Deleting Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s, and Halloween doesn’t help me understand Hmong New Year, Hanukkah, or the Islam Month of Fast. The deletion also doesn’t encourage me to learn more about Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s, Halloween or Kwanzaa either.

    • rabbit

      Nobody is saying parents cannot have parties for school friends at home. Parents can also keep kids home to celebrate cultural holidays. When I was a kid, my school was practically deserted on Jewish holidays. Social Studies covers comparative culture much more fairly and deeply than holiday parties and random days off. I do think schools should place more emphasis on Social Studies (comparative culture, civics, history, and geography) than they do.

  • whitedoggie44

    One of the reason’s we sent our kids to private schools, did not need to deal with the whacko’s running the public school system. Reminds me of George Orwells book, 1984 where independent thinking was a “thought crime” Happy belated Columbua day!

    • Columbus was the FIST SALVE TRADER and initiated murder of the Indigenous people here. Those actions should NOT be celebrated if one is a decent human being.

  • Khatti

    I see no need for Christmas trees in the hallway, but Christmas is a holiday that allows for vacation days: do these go away if the school system decides to no longer recognize Christmas?

    • rabbit

      Nope–it becomes Winter Break. (It happened here years ago.) Music programs become just that with music related to the curriculum and sometimes presented by grade level instead of the whole school. Remember, Spring Break was once Easter Vacation. Spring Break allows staggering the impact of the vacation. (I think parties and religious celebrations should be held at home and in other cultural settings–churches, community centers, commercial venues, etc.) Art, music, dance, and drama should be part of every school’s regular curriculum, not half-baked “holiday” obligations. Creativity and learning are fun. Sugar and pop music fests during school hours are not necessary.

  • lindblomeagles

    My child attends a Saint Paul Public School. I have some concerns about Vento’s holiday policy. I already think our society pushes adulthood too fast on children as it is. Some of these holidays really are for kids, small children who generally do like candy, and generally do dress up or imagine being different things when playing alone, with toys, or with friends. Sure, Saint Paul student test scores need significant improvement. But many former American students who stressed over test scores have committed suicide, the pressure of not being perfect finally getting to them. But, as a former History Major, there’s a lot to learn from the birth and observances of these holidays. Thanksgiving, for example, sparked significant, often complicated, changes for European immigrants, Africans, Native Americans, and England itself. Halloween and Valentine’s Day also have a story to tell. They both aren’t solely about worshipping non-Christian Gods and Spirits or making a big deal about romantic relationships. Christmas, likewise, has a story to tell, and when told in the context of other religions in the region where Christianity was born, children can learn more about their country and the Middle East, a region that is in the news on a weekly basis. We Americans continuously want ONE RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER. There isn’t one. It’s all part of a larger, societal, cultural intersection of things, and that’s worth knowing more about.

  • Julie Colby

    I’m fine with not celebrating religious or hallmark holidays. However, our kids need to celebrate. They need to have fun. They need things to look forward to. So celebrate big time at the end of each quarter. Have a party when everyone in the class learns something new. Pick a random Wednesday every month to take 55 minutes off and sing songs, make a craft, have a special snack and wear paper crowns. Call it Wednesday appreciation day. School with no celebration is not a school I want my kids to attend.

    • PaulJ

      That sounds good. But, the kids might miss the sense of gravitas.

  • Joanna Jones

    Is it not possible to come to some kind of happy medium? Our kids are global citizens and learning about the holidays of others will help them understand the world around them better. Invite parents from different ethnic groups to suggest holidays and traditions, and have them lead the planning. Rotate the holidays from year to year if you have too many. Have the whole school learn who celebrates each holiday and why and how it came about. We get so caught up in offending no one that we make everything dull and lifeless. We can’t see the opportunities to go the other direction and make our lives richer.