Editorial: One-dimensional ethnic holidays meant to increase cultural accessibility

Editorial Board

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The Mid-Autumn Festival marks the night of the brightest full moon of the year, representing a time of harvest and plenty, of spending time with family and loved ones in many Asian cultures. In a 51 percent white campus student body, however, the Mid-Autumn Festival and other ethnic holidays could easily be reduced to campus celebrations highlighted only for their free food. Although this is an extreme view on how students view these cultural holidays, members of the Case Western Reserve University community should stay aware of how they appreciate and participate in other cultures’ celebrations.

For many students, coming to CWRU is the first chance they have to be exposed to other cultures and different customs, and for them, these large, campus-wide celebrations are beneficial for their educational and cultural value. However, these holidays, at their core, should be a celebration for students in the culture, who share the celebration with everyone on campus. In recent years, the heart of these events has strayed further from the actual celebration of the holiday and become an event centered around food and little else.

This is not to say that these events are not welcoming, open spaces for students to celebrate cultural holidays. However, boiling the events down to food and a very basic form of the history behind the holidays, as seen in the signs across the Binary Walkway, may not be the best approach to celebrating diversity on campus.

It is true that often, the best way to introduce others to a new cultural tradition is through the food associated with it, but when food is the only draw for students to attend the celebration, the purpose of holding the event is defeated.

This is not the only form of reduction in these holidays, as many holidays that are celebrated on campus are actually the amalgamations of various cultures’ celebrations that fall at the same time of year. At this time in the fall, several Asian nations all celebrate Harvest Festivals, but the Mid-Autumn Festival represented at CWRU is mainly Chinese. Reducing the different Asian festivals to one interpretation not only marginalizes students who celebrate a different form of the holiday on campus, but also only depicts one form of the holiday and perpetuates the pan-Asian myth of how all Asian cultures are the same.

For other festivals like Holi, the celebrations are also greatly altered for the CWRU campus and simplified in an attempt to increase student participation.

What this issue ultimately comes to is that there should be no trade-off between the simplicity of a celebration and its accessibility. Paring down a holiday and its associated celebrations does not help anyone—it perpetuates the overly simplified view of different cultures in the United States and deprives ethnic students the opportunity to celebrate holidays that are important to them and their cultures properly. We do not need to flatten cultures into one-dimensional representations to make a celebration universally accessible; we only need open-minded individuals who are willing to celebrate respectfully.