Deepavali should be a two-day holiday, for all in Malaysia

Deepavali, the ‘Festival of Lights’, celebrates the Hindu culture and brings families together annually. Houses are adorned with colourful decorations and lamps. Festive treats are made and shared with relatives.

It is a reason for communities to come together and celebrate the festive season. A controversial question that has been raised over the years – this year being no exception – is whether or not Deepavali should be given two days of public holidays.

Over the years, Malaysians have held various views on the matter. Some say that it has been this way for as long as they can remember, and is perfectly acceptable, as Indians are the minority. Others say it’s too short a break for families to spend any time together, especially if they are not in the same state.

I strongly believe that like other festivals, Deepavali should be given two days. The Indian community should not be forced to squeeze all their celebrations into a few hours of just one day. Nor should they apply for leave, giving up the limited benefits their companies give them. With just one day, traditions and rituals would be minimised immensely.

Other communities have a longer time to enjoy their festive activities, but we only have a single day. Just because we are the minority does not mean that the public holidays given to us should be limited.

Deepavali, much like Hari Raya and Chinese New Year, brings together families from all over the country, and sometimes, even from across the globe. Families are given less than a day to meet and celebrate together before they are forced to rush back to work because we are only given one day off.

Some deem it a waste of time. Why bother spending so much time and money to travel to your grandfather’s house, only to have to rush back a few hours after that? Families and friends are brought together for a limited time to catch up and have fun.

This is especially disheartening for relatives who don’t see each other often because they live in different states. A single day for them to let loose with family and friends is stripped away because of this unfairness.

Deepavali contributes to the sense of identity within a community, or a group. For some, Deepavali is the only time they return to the cultural, traditions, and religious beliefs.

It’s the only time of the year when they immerse themselves in their culture. For instance, taking part in different events, such as playing with fireworks, oil baths, dressing up in traditional attire, and enjoying traditional sweets and meals. Often, people get carried away with work or just overlook their culture. Deepavali is the ideal opportunity to return to their roots with their loved ones.

It is only fair that all major holidays are given the same number of days for a break, and celebrations with friends and family. It is ludicrous that Deepavali has been given only one day, for this long. It is time the holiday is extended for all in Malaysia, not just an unrecorded leave for Hindu civil servants, and an extended holiday for school children.

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