Should Diwali be marked as a holiday in Calgary public schools?

The celebrations are big, bright and loud.

Diwali is one of the most sacred holidays on many South Asians’ calendars – observed not only by those of Hindu faith, but by Sikh, Jains and some Buddhists too.

“In India, people get a holiday of at least one week,” international student Damanbieet Sandhu said. She was among hundreds attending Diwali gatherings hosted at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Monday. It’s the first time the school has been able to host an in-person event since 2019.

“On Diwali we can meet each other, greet each other. This is the best thing.”

Watch: Diwali 2022: Hindus celebrate Lakshmi Puja across India as Modi visits troops at Pakistan border

Diwali, also called the Indian Festival of Lights, is a celebration of light over darkness and good over evil.

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But for many young Calgarians, it is also a regular school day.

“It’s very disheartening to not be home with your friends and your loved ones to celebrate such a momentous occasion,” said grade 9 student Pujeet Garg.

He and a number of his friends took Monday off. The Calgary Board of Education marks such absences as “cultural-spiritual-ceremonial observances.”

More: Calgary student asks CBE to consider school holiday for Diwali

“Today is a regular school day across the system. However, students who are absent for cultural-spiritual-ceremonial observance will not be subject to an academic penalty. This is an excused absence intended to support participation in cultural, spiritual or ceremonial events,” the CBE said in a statement.

But that hasn’t stopped Garg and his friends from circulating petitions and writing to the CBE to request that Diwali be made a traditional holiday, following the lead of public schools in places like New York.

“Many friends, including one of my former classmates who went to a school called Brooklyn Tech, he gets to have the day off,” said another student Anik Chakarborty.

“I had a quiz today and now I’m kind of stressing over ‘what did I miss today?’ And ‘what am I going to do tomorrow?’ ‘How am I going to make up for this?’” said Ved Agwekar, also a grade 9 student in Calgary.

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Click to play video: 'Diwali celebrated across Saskatchewan with message of light over darkness'

Diwali celebrated across Saskatchewan with message of light over darkness

The CBE said, “schools are encouraged to offer alternative exam times or project due dates for students if these events fall the day of or the day after a student is likely to be absent for faith-based reasons. Personalized learning occurs through flexible, responsive relationships between the teacher, the student and the content within the instructional core.”

Diwali is a five-day event, with festivities continuing around Calgary until next weekend.

Click to play video: 'In-person Diwali celebrations return to the Okanagan'

In-person Diwali celebrations return to the Okanagan

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