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"Christmas" Break? A look at religious differences among students around the holidays Eva Mccord '21 and Eleni Tecos '22

Muslim student reflects on celebrating holidays different from Christian classmates

Eva McCord '21

Graphic by Eva McCord '21

“Have a holly-jolly Christmas!”

“Only a few more days until Christmas break!”

“Have you finished your Christmas shopping?”

These phrases and countless more like them are said and resaid throughout the month of December, with most everyone prepared to finish up the last few weeks of school before winter break. However, for Awmeo Azad ’21, the festivities are still far in the future-- this year, as late as April.

“Eid is similar to Christmas, as it’s a religious holiday, but it happens twice during the year based on the Lunar Calendar,” Azad said. “It’s a time to celebrate important events in the history of Islam, with some overlapping stories that are familiar to Christians.”

According to Azad, for muslim students both at South and within the community alike, Ramadan is demarcated by not just spending time with family and loved ones, by a period of self-reflection.

“Like any holiday, Eid can mean a variety of things. For some people it means absolutely nothing, it’s just something their family drags them to,” Azad said. “But for most people, and really the purpose of the holiday is a time to connect to the people that you love.”

Though the celebrations are different, Azad noted that both Christmas and Eid emphasize the importance of coming together as a community. That said, Azad reinstated that the differences between the two holidays should be understood and respected, particularly in an environment that is predominantly Christian.

“It’s easy for us in our daily lives to be driven apart from the people we love, because of school or work, but Eid is a space dedicated to family and love,” Azad said. “Eid represents the core of what our lives are about, be it family, friends, or religion.”

However, when he thinks of the holiday, Azad is unable to point to a particular year or series of favorite memories that encompass his relationship with the holiday, but rather the overall experience of the celebration itself.

“I can’t think of one specific memory that embodies my feelings surrounding Ramadan,” Azad said. “For me, Ramadan symbolizes a series of periods within my life. It’s a time for me to look at who I am, who I was the year prior, and who I am becoming, and even who I want to be.”

For Azad, the celebration is integral to his identity as both an individual and as a muslim, and has been a constant in his life’s journey.

“Each year, my approach to the holiday changes. It influences my philosophy, it influences me as a person, and I think it’s an important part of how I’ve grown.” Azad said. “ My most impactful memories from Eid and Ramadan are what I’ve learned from the experience of fasting.”

Beyond personal contemplation, Eid and Ramadan are firmly rooted in the history and culture of Islam as a whole, and ties practicers more closely to their fellow participants, providing a greater sense of purpose and worldly understanding.

“The experience of Ramadan as a whole gives me a deep sense of suffering of the things that muslims go through all around the world.” Azad said. “(It fills me with) the hope and persistence within the community despite descrimination and poverty, and that connects me to millions of people around the world.”

Opinion: Reflecting on religious bias in the classroom

Eleni Tecos '22

Graphic by Eleni Tecos '22

Every year, the anticipation for winter break is on the forefront of students’ and teachers’ minds as the semester comes to a close. More often, however, winter break is known as “Christmas break.” Whether this is due to the large Christian community in Grosse Pointe or the assumption that everyone is Christian in Grosse Pointe, though, has been a recurring question on my mind.

As a Christian myself, I hadn’t thought anything of Christmas break when I was younger. I hadn’t thought anything of writing letters to Santa in elementary school. I hadn’t thought anything of the fact that other students may not celebrate Christmas.

In light of Culture Week, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection on the things that make me privileged. My religion is one of them.

Here in Grosse Pointe, we’ve grown up with the presumption that everything is perfect. But, in reality, there are a lot of things we can do to improve on as a city to make our community a more accepting place.

One implement I believe we should make is harboring a less Christian-oriented schedule. Yes, the majority of students at South and in Grosse Pointe are Christian, but how does this make students of other religions feel? How are we incorporating these minorities? How are we educating students outside of their respective “normals”?

While I’m not saying we should completely change our schedule, I am saying that we should be more conscious and courteous to everyone in their practices, lifestyles and beliefs.

Another change is keeping school and religion separate. In doing so, we spend less time focused on things such as our plans for Christmas, and more time on physical class material. This implement is practical, and it also reduces religious bias in the classroom.

One final alteration I believe our district should make is to more thoroughly educate students on various religions. While this may seem contradictory to my previous point, in educating students on religions beyond their own, we cultivate an environment without bias, which is the ultimate goal.

By creating an environment in which students of all religions can thrive, we foster a community with less bias and prejudice toward minority groups. Moreover, we can recognize winter break as simply “winter break” and focus on inclusion and acceptance for all.