Maybe they don’t have commercial appeal, but non-Christian holidays deserve notice

As the Christmas season approaches, many of us eagerly anticipate the days off to catch up on some much-needed sleep and celebrating with friends and family. Dec. 25 is recognized as a federal holiday in the United States and has become so commercialized that many non-Christians take part in the festivities as well. However, recognizing Christmas with a day off and leaving out the holidays of other religious groups that make up a huge part of the population promotes inequality and marginalization.

Although the U.S. claims secularism, it seems that notion disappears during the holiday season. Whether or not you remember the religious history and background of our country’s most celebrated holiday — Christmas — there is one aspect no one dares to forget: the gifts. From an economic perspective, the holiday season and breaks given to both workers and students benefit many industries, especially the retail industry, and bring in a large, concentrated amount of capital in the span of a few short weeks. Each year, retail sales increase around the holiday season, from a four percent increase in 2010 to a 2.4 percent increase just last year. In 2012, Americans reported spending an outrageous $119 a day during the weekend before Christmas, the highest average since 2008. There is a huge cultural hype that comes with Christmas. Declaring it a bank holiday benefits our economy because it stimulates an increase in consumer spending as well as an increase in the money spent on advertisements targeted at shoppers. Christmas would not be so anticipated if it was just another day to work and go to school. Instead, it is a day of celebration, gifts, receipts and maxed-out credit cards.

Because of its commercial status, it makes sense that Christmas continues to stand as a bank holiday. However, that same consideration should be given to other major religious groups. Just because a holiday might not provide the same economic boost as Christmas does not mean it should not be recognized on a federal scale. Since Jews and Muslims account for approximately 4.2 million and 3.2 million, respectively, of the U.S. population, their voices should be heard just as loud as the majority’s. Jews and Muslims have major holidays that regularly (or sometimes — due to differences between the Islamic and Gregorian calendars) fall in what is typically called “the holiday season.” Eid and Chanukah, among others, are not recognized as federal holidays. The lack of commercialism associated with these other days of celebration should not affect their status in a federal sphere.

Of course, an argument like this is not limited to the Jewish and Muslim population. Because these two religions continue to rapidly grow in the U.S., fair discussion and consideration of such a request — which has been petitioned to school boards across the country as well as the federal government — is undoubtedly well-deserved.

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