The absurdly long list of approved NJ school holidays
🔺 New Jersey recognizes over 120 religious holidays as excused absences in school.
🔺 Dozens of faiths are recognized, including Scientology and Wicca.
🔺 Districts can add additional holidays as they see fit.
New Jersey schools are required to provide at least 180 days of instruction, under state law.
Students must attend school at least 163 days or risk being held back. Missing nine days in a semester or five absences from any course could also make a student ineligible to participate in sports or extracurricular activities.
However, New Jersey also requires schools to make exceptions for more than 120 days recognized as religious holidays.
Most of these holidays are different from the eight to 10 official school holidays that give all students and staff the day off.
Local districts determine on which holidays school will be closed. Historically, these days have included President’s Day, Memorial Day, and New Year’s Day. More recently, holidays such as Juneteenth have been added.
Students celebrating any of the other recognized holidays by the New Jersey Department of Education can take an additional day or days off as an excused absence.
State law provides that for any of these holidays:
🔺 Any student absent from school because of a religious holiday may not be deprived of any award or of eligibility or opportunity to compete for any award because of such absence;
🔺Students who miss a test or examination because of an absence on a religious holiday must be given the right to take an alternate test or examination;
🔺To be entitled to the privileges set forth above, the student must present a written excuse signed by a parent or person standing in place of a parent;
🔺Any absence because of a religious holiday must be recorded in the school register or in any group or class attendance record as an excused absence;
🔺Such absence must not be recorded on any transcript or application or employment form or on any similar form.
The New Jersey Education Commissioner reviews and revises the list before every school year.
Multiple Faiths are represented
For the 2023-24 school year, New Jersey will recognize 128 religious holidays and observances representing more than a dozen faiths and representing the wide diversity of the Garden State.
More than one-third of the list, 52-days, represents Christian based holidays, including Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Christian faiths.
By contrast, only 12 Jewish holidays are listed.
The biggest changes to the list in recent years has been the addition of dozens of holidays recognizing Islam, Hindu and Sikh holidays.
New Jersey recognizes 24 Muslim holidays. The Islamic faith is the second most represented on the list.
There are 18 Hindu and 15 Sikh holidays considered excused absences during the school year.
New Jersey recognizes many lessor known holidays
State education officials have included seven Wiccan holidays on the list.
Also represented are the Iraqi and Iranian faiths of Baha’I and Zoroastrian.
The Japanese Shinto festival of Gantan-sai (New Year) is also included.
New Jersey has even recognized L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday of March 13 for followers of Scientology.
School districts face difficult choices
New Jersey allows each district to set their own school calendar, choosing which holidays are marked by closing school.
Given the 180 days of instruction requirement, there are only a limited number of days that can be used.
In recent years, dozens of districts have added Ramadan, Eid al Fitr and Diwali, the Festival of Lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists.
In order to accommodate the new holidays, some districts have stopped closing school for others.
For example, when the Randolph School Board removed one of two days reserved for the Jewish New Year celebration of Rosh Hashana, the district was faced severe backlash from the Jewish community.
Below are all of the holidays and festivals that districts must permit excused absences.
For specific days off in your district, consult your district’s official school calendar.
January school holidays in New Jersey
On January 1, the Japanese New Year festival is celebrated.
February school holidays in New Jersey
Nirvana Day (Buddhist)
In 486 BC, Siddhartha Gautama (commonly known as Buddha), died at the age of 80. His followers believe this is when he achieved a true state of Nirvana. Buddhists celebrate this day marking the end to the cycle of death and rebirth. Buddhism teaches that Nirvana is reached when all want and suffering is gone.
March school holidays in New Jersey
L. Ron Hubbard's Birthday (Scientology)
Members of the Church of Scientology celebrate the birth of their founder as a holy day. Lafayette Ronald Hubbard published Dianetics in 1950 and became the basis for a new religion.
April school holidays in New Jersey
Eid al Fitr (Islam)
Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al Fitr as the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan. It is the earlier of the two official holidays celebrated within Islam.
May school holidays in New Jersey
In the Christian faith, Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks.
June school holidays in New Jersey
Jews celebrate the “Festival of the Weeks” to commemorate God giving his laws to Moses at Mount Sinai. It was originally celebrated as a harvest festival.
July school holidays in New Jersey
Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha'i)
Followers of the Baha’I faith mark the death of the Bab by execution in 1850. They believe the Bab was God’s messenger who heralded the latest manifestation of God.
August school holidays in New Jersey
Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox Christian)
Orthodox Christians commemorate the repose of Theotokos, or Virgin Mary, who is believed to be mother of Jesus Christ.
September school holidays in New Jersey
Ganesh Charturthi (Hindu)
Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival commemorating the birth of the Hindu god Ganesha. The festival is marked with the installation of Ganesha's clay idols privately in homes and publicly on elaborate pandals
October school holidays in New Jersey
Wiccan followers believe during the month-long festival of Samhain (pronounced “SAH-win”) the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down, allowing more interaction between humans and denizens of the Otherworld.
November school holidays in New Jersey
Diwali (Hindu, Jain, Puja, Deepavali)
Diwali, meaning “row of lights,” is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness.
December school holidays in New Jersey
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