A School Day Off to Throw Around Colored Powder?
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On every Hindu holiday, I find myself stuck in school. I count the seconds on the clock to when the day will end so I can go to my temple, engage in festivities, and spend time with friends and family. Many times, I miss special moments, get left out of certain festivities, and never observe the significance of specific rituals. Even though I don’t even want to go to school, my parents always think it's important that I not miss out on any education because of a religious holiday. As a result, I’ve never been able to enjoy the fun of throwing colored powder at my friends during Holi. I never get to watch the elaborate rituals of Durga Puja. And I never get to go the temple on Diwali, since most of the Diwali festivities happen at night, and we always have to worry about there being school the next day.
I’m ambivalent as to how I feel about my parents’ policy. Sure, school is important, but is it worth missing out on cultural and religious moments? Is slowly forgetting the significance of certain festivals and rituals due to not being involved in them worth it?
Why do I have to feel pressured to go to school on religious holidays when I see that others get to freely celebrate their Christmases, Yom Kippurs, and Eid Al-Fitrs?
As a Hindu, I am deprived of a privilege many people of other faiths receive: religious school holidays. Hindu holidays are varied. There are multiple traditions and several different holidays. Not everyone celebrates every holiday, and there are some holidays people don’t even know about.
Despite the fact that there is a lot of diversity in Hindu traditions and holidays, there are some major holidays that are common to every Hindu. These holidays include Diwali, Holi, and Durga Puja, more widely celebrated as Navratri. The school calendar has space to give days off for at least one of these holidays. Navratri goes on for nine days, but it would be possible to give just one of those nine days off. So what is the challenge posed to giving Hindu school holidays?
Some may argue that the Hindu population in New York City isn’t large enough to grant Hindu holidays. Hindu adults account for three percent of the population of New York City, roughly equivalent to the percentage of Muslims in the city. However, we have the Islamic school holidays of Eid-al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr, but we don’t have any Hindu school holidays. If these two religious minorities are roughly equal in population, then it is unfair to deny one of these minorities the privilege of a religious holiday while giving the same privilege to another. It isn’t practical to grant religious holidays to every single religious minority in New York City, but when the percentage of two religious minorities are equal, either both of them should receive religious school holidays or neither should.
Religious minorities that make up a significant part of the population should be given the opportunity to embrace their culture and their religion through celebration of their holidays—with one school day off at the very least. Hindus shouldn’t be deprived of this privilege; children must be able to embrace their culture and religion for their communities to embrace diversity. Hindu students should have the opportunity to embrace their culture and religion, and they should be able to participate in religious festivities without having to worry about missing school. All I’m asking for is the joy of being able to light candles in front of my house and go to the temple afterwards on Diwali, the fun of being able to throw colored powder at my friends and family on Holi, and the peace of being able to engage in religious rituals during Navratri.