For many Hindus in the UK, we are used to celebrating our biggest festival of the year right in the middle of the academic term. When I was younger, having no responsibilities other than lighting diyas and eating mithai, I was obviously excited for a day off school. For my parents, however, it may have occasionally been a hassle to get us out of school as Diwali falls right in the middle of the term.
The older I became, the more I yearned for the time off school to actually be involved in Diwali. I inevitably grew to want to visit everyone, do every puja, and fully participate in my favourite festival of the year. However, this was genuinely out of the question for many Hindu students in the UK – we can’t just skip multiple days of school right before exams.
Now that I’m an adult, I’ve become fully aware of the amount of hassle it takes to actually celebrate my own holiday. It makes me wonder why a holiday like Christmas, which only takes place on a single day, warranted two weeks off school. Diwali is a five-day festival, excluding the number of preparations, hosting, and extra responsibilities. Yet, we are given absolutely nothing. Maybe sometimes our Muslim brothers and sisters get a “Happy Diwali” because the English are a little backwards, but for the most part, we seem to be paid dust.
Diwali often coincides with uni deadlines, lectures, and general work
Hours of labour go into cleansing your home for Lakshmi, individually making each and every piece of mithai to serve, and ironing 12 sarees all-around 5 metres long – do you know how long it takes to iron a saree?
Not to mention that Diwali often coincides with uni deadlines, lectures, and general work. Having a 4-6 pm lecture on the evening of Diwali meant that I would have to miss a majority of the puja time since it always falls in the evening. While scheduling is an issue that many departments struggle with, it still baffles me that there is such a lack of attention for things like this.
It’s also not just the day of Diwali, celebrations include the days before and after – Dhanteras and Narak Chaturdashi are both before Diwali. Diwali is followed by the Gujarati New Year and the next few days are filled with constant guests, as well as visiting elders and temples. Of course, there has been a lot of progression with religious tolerance in the UK, but systematically it still feels as backwards as it used to.
We are asking for leniency and consideration for the biggest festivals in the world
Diwali, the largest Hindu festival of the year, has no set date like Christmas because it coincides with the Hindu lunisolar calendar. This means that rather than celebrating on exact dates of the year, we celebrate when the end of the summer harvest coincides with the next new moon.
Another example of this is Eid, which is similar to Diwali in the sense that the date of Eid also depends on the moon cycle. Eid al-Adha falls on the 11th day of the Islamic 12th month Dhu al-Hijjah, thus following the Islamic lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian. Eid al-Fitr, much like Diwali, commences when the new moon has been sighted in the Islamic 10th month of the year. Although I truly do understand the amount of pre-planning and extra care the government would have to take in order to organise national holidays, I still wonder why we aren’t given a single bit of empathy.
Diwali and Eid, amongst many other lunar celebrations, rarely receive the same consideration as Christmas. Here come the arguments about it being a ‘Christian country’ – but how does this stop people from being tolerant? We aren’t asking for two weeks to celebrate a single day, we are asking for leniency and consideration for the biggest festivals in the world. With three million Muslims and a million Hindus in the UK, is it truly that much to ask?