by Tamanna T., Staff Writer
The end of October and the beginning of November mark the start of numerous celebrations all across the globe, most of which are religious. For example, the first week of November sees the start of Diwali, one of the most important and celebrated festivals for some people of South Asian descent. Many celebrate Diwali — about 500,000 Hindus in Canada alone partake in the celebration. This doesn’t even account for other communities who celebrate so it’s about time it gets the recognition it deserves. More specifically, universities need to give more importance and consideration to students who celebrate Diwali.
As an Indian who has celebrated three consecutive Diwalis in Canada, it’s incredibly disheartening to see the lack of attention it gets. This festival falls on different days every year, and includes praying at a certain time of day for Lakshmi Pooja (at least in the Hindu religion). However, Canadian universities do not give time off for these prayers.
In India, Diwali is a multi-day extravagant celebration with family and friends. In Canada, I have seen relatives move their prayers to the weekend because they can’t get a day off work or school. This lack of understanding takes me by surprise — religious prayers shouldn’t have to be moved around because of work.
Christmas gets celebrated on whichever day it falls on during the week and is considered a statutory holiday. So if that’s the case, people should be given a day off for Diwali as well. Canada has Good Friday, St. Patricks’s Day, Labour Day, and Thanksgiving Day as statutory holidays. What is stopping them from making Diwali a statutory holiday too?
This year, SFU’s Indian Student Federation organized a Diwali Gala for South Asian students to celebrate Diwali. SFU’s Global Community organized a multicultural festival which included Diwali as well. Having student-run groups celebrate Diwali was a wonderful thing to see, but the lack of involvement from SFU was disheartening.
Since Diwali usually falls at the beginning of November, most students are unable to celebrate properly because it is the middle of midterm season. I could barely do anything for Diwali this year between work and studying. Not being given time to celebrate can often take a toll on those living with their parents and are unable to celebrate with them, or those living away from home and are forced to study all day instead of talking to family.
More than 13 countries celebrate Diwali as an official holiday in some form. This makes me wonder why Canada, one of the more diverse nations of the world, can’t find space in its statutory holiday list for Diwali?
Recognizing Diwali as a statutory holiday would not only be a sign of respect for the culture, but would also mean people all around the country can celebrate on the day it is meant to be celebrated. Making Diwali a statutory holiday might not seem like a major change, but to many South Asian Canadians, it would be incredibly significant.