Isn’t it about time the Gregorian calendar moved aside on the University schedule?
Unless you’re a weird rise-and-grind loser, everyone froths a holiday. And New Zealand bitches are no exception; old Lizzie’s body wasn’t even cold before Aunt Cindy was announcing the nation’s game plan to get on the piss. It’s no breaking news that students (and casual workers) get the short end of the deal. Amidst the tears of students missing out on a long weekend piss-up because of a 10% assignment, those from religious and cultural backgrounds have been putting up with this shit for years.
Despite about a quarter of our population being born overseas, we do a pretty poor job of giving them their due with something as simple as a public holiday. Sure, Auckland council might put on a festival at Eden Park every now and again—but is that enough, considering the fact some people can’t even get the time of day to observe how they want?
This year in particular, the uni hustle has made me miss out on almost all of the important days in the Chinese calendar. Instead of getting on a plane to spend time with family during Lunar New Year, I got on my daily bus to grind away at a summer school assignment. Rather than eating 月饼 (mooncakes) for the Mid-Autumn Festival, I bought frozen dumplings and a red bull from the ‘til-midnight Countdown to smash out an essay due the next day. Maybe it’s just my poor time management, but maybe it’s just the relentless university schedule that tells non-Gregorian calendars to get fucked.
Can you fault students for sacrificing their cultural-religious practices when they’re juggling assignments, extracurriculars, and jobs? As much as I love the prospect of slaving away at least six years of my life at a soul-sucking degree for a soul-sucking job, it would be nice at least to observe the few days where you can reconnect with yourself. And when it’s the university schedule that’s erasing your cultural identity, I’ve found it’s a tougher pill to swallow.
But maybe I’m just being a bitch about it. I’m open to the idea that I need to buck up, put my head down, and get back in line with white New Zealand. So, I set out to find if other students from a range of cultural-religious backgrounds also felt how I felt (or would tell just me to harden up). I talked with Hasaan, Lavi, and our beloved Visual Arts Editor, Gabbie, to figure out how they felt observing their cultural calendars, and whether it’s worth starting a fight over.
Tell us about your cultural celebrations/observances that gets disrupted by the University Schedule
Gabbie: Back in the Philippines we have this thing called Holy Week. It’s a Catholic thing that usually goes from the end of March to early April. The date varies every year, but I don’t know how? Maybe the Pope sends out an email. Me and my family aren’t Catholic, but we enjoy the week off, and it’s still a great way to enjoy time with family. On three of the seven days in the week everything is closed—no supermarkets, no transportation—it’s a literal ghost town. Sometimes I even have a cheeky drink with my friends to commemorate the start of the week—blasphemy? Maybe, I don’t know. God might be an ethnic woman, she would understand.
Hasaan: Being from Pakistan and also being a Muslim, there [are] a few main [holidays] that come up, the biggest ones being the two Eids and Ramadan. They’re based on the Lunar calendar, so they never fall on the same day. When I was in primary school I always described Eid to my friends as the Muslim version of Christmas, it’s a big celebration. It goes over three days, and during Eid you do prayer in the morning, and have family and friend get togethers. Ramadan is a full month, it’s literally considered the holy month, with a major thing being that you fast from sunrise to sunset. It’s a very big deal.
Lavi: I’m more culturally Jewish, so I celebrate things more for Jewish culture rather than for potentially traditional reasons. There’s a few big ones, like Rosh Hashanah as the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur as the day of repentance. Some of the days really limit how and what we can do. For example, on Yom Kippur, which goes for over a day, you can’t use any form of technology or do work. So, that’s a day where like, nothing should be done.
When you’ve had to miss out in the past, how did you feel?
G: On Christmas, where I have to see every damn relative and get body shamed by my Tita’s (Aunts), Holy Week is nice. Speaking as a non-Catholic, you don’t actually have to celebrate together as a family with something like a big feast. So, I feel somewhat safe in my own skin with my family. We all wake up late together and have nowhere to go, so we watch a movie or something! Or bake together. I just miss my siblings, in that sense.
H: There [have] been a lot of times where I’ve been fasting for the month of Ramadan, from sunrise to sunset, and I’ve just been fucked by assignments and tests. Once I had a 6:30pm test, and I had been fasting the whole day. It hits 6:20pm and I can end my fast, I’m pretty stressed and I’ve got 10 minutes to quickly grab a snack from Munchy or down a V. It’s hard, because obviously you can’t not do your test, but you’ve definitely got this added mental toll. And obviously that also means you can’t pray. I know people who couldn’t do Ramadan because they were in really intensive courses and felt they just couldn’t afford to be off their game for a whole month. Sometimes it’s shit, but growing up here it’s all you ever know, you know? You just accept it.
L: It’s hard taking that time off when I could be studying. But I have kind of made a personal policy to take that time. And if that means asking for an extension, then whatever. On Shabbat, which is the day of rest which starts Friday night and Saturday night, that’s a day where you also shouldn’t be doing any work. So, it’s difficult for those who have weekend part-time jobs, or you know, have had a really busy week and try to get a lot of stuff done on those days. That’s not really doable for some Jewish people because they honour Shabbat and they use that as a day of rest.
Do you do anything to make up for what you miss?
L: My way of practicing Judaism is doing the events and during the holidays with other Jewish people and so it’s very much a community thing. So, that can only really happen in real time. Like, for Rosh Hashanah, there [are] a whole bunch of prayers, we sing songs, and we eat food together. That’s not really something that we can stage like a week later after the New Year has already happened. Then also like a week later, there’s Yom Kippur. There [are] very specific timings of when things should be done. And it’s very intentional in the Jewish calendar, so there’s not much I can really do in my own time.
Should the University do better or is this something we should be sucking up?
H: Honestly, it can be something as easy as the University sending out a personal email recognising these days. It’s a pretty silly thing, but I think that recognition would be pretty cool.
L: Change is very idealistic. It would be good to have special conditions for certain things like if you have a test, or an exam. But I don’t know, just being more flexible would be difficult with the very rigid university schedule we have.