I've watched with great interest the push that's recently emerged to declare the Lunar New Year and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitre school holidays in New York City, The former, marking the launch of a new year according to the Chinese calendar, is a major celebration in Chinese communities worldwide.
Left, photo of then-Mayor Mike Bloomburg courtesy New York City Mayor's Office
The bill, which was approved by the State Assembly yesterday, if it passes the State Senate and gains the Governor's signature, would require the city's Department of Education to determine whether to allow individual schools or districts to shut down during cultural or religious celebrations, if student attendance previously flagged on that occasion in earlier years.
"Tomorrow [Lunar New Year] will be a day of empty classrooms in Chinatown because many families have made the understandable decision to honor this holiday by keeping their children home and enjoying celebrations throughout the community," State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the bill's co-sponsor, reportedly said at a recent press conference.
"There is no reason these children should be marked absent for observing a holiday that is of deep importance to them."
No surprise that I am all in favor of encouraging the diasporas that so enrich the fabric of the city to celebrate their heritage on their special holidays. But I'm dismayed by the sponsors' failure to highlight St. Patrick's Day as an occasion for the city's Irish-American youth to take time to explore and celebrate the epic heritage of their Irish forebears, as we do everyday here on The Wild Geese.
That said, I'd like your view -- what do you think of this measure?
Growing up in Philadelphia (about 200 yrs ago) all the Irish went to catholic schools and St Patrick's day was a holiday. We didn't parade but went to Mass and just spent the day with relatives,
I wonder if they have the same attendance issues on St. Patrick's Day as they do on these other holidays. It would be interesting to know since that's the rationale they are using. Anybody here teach in NY or have any sense of this?