It’s not every year that the Jewish holiday of Pesach, commonly referred to as Passover, and the Christian holiday of Easter overlap. However, this anomaly, which is deeply connected with the oddities of different calendrical calculation systems, created a slight issue for students at the College of William and Mary who wished to seek respite from Williamsburg and return to their families to celebrate the holidays.
In fact, this occurrence caused something strange. For the first time since orientation, the Dinwiddie lounge was almost completely empty. For a lot of the weekend, it was just me and a few other people who chose to stay in Williamsburg — some because they had no holiday to celebrate, or others, like myself, who live too far away from Virginia to justify leaving for one short weekend.
Unlike Christmas and Thanksgiving, Easter is not recognized by the U.S. federal government as a holiday that necessitates school closings. This usually isn’t an issue since Easter always falls on a Sunday. Likewise, Easter Monday is not a holiday that tends to be celebrated in the United States as it is in Europe or the Middle East. As for Pesach, you’ll have to make Aliyah and move to the State of Israel if you want a government to recognize your holiday as a worthy enough cause for rest.
With the first day of Pesach falling squarely on Friday night, along with Easter falling on Sunday, students going home for the weekend are obligated to not only take part in their family’s festivities, but also stay ahead of the work they are expected to complete for the following Monday.
For the Jewish diaspora outside of Israel, it is customary to celebrate the first two days of Passover rather than just the first day, which means that one must partake in two sidarim with each lasting for hours on end. On top of travel time, this can be a lot for a student to handle in just one weekend.
Although the College is a secular, state-run university, it cannot be ignored that many religious holidays have found secular audiences. How many people associate Easter with the resurrection of Jesus Christ compared to the number of people who see it as a time for Easter egg hunting? In a uniquely American phenomenon, like the commercializing of Christmas, the holiday has become important even to secular Americans.
Many people argue against the recognition of religious holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha because they are religious and not secular holidays. They claim that by recognizing one minority religion’s holidays, one will have to recognize them all. Yet Christmas has managed to be the cause for students to gain upward of a month off of school. If people don’t want the government to recognize religious holidays at all, would it not be possible for us to use any other month as an arbitrary divider for the academic year?
Keeping in line as a country made up of people from all over the world, couldn’t leeway exist for people to follow customs who aren’t just Anglo-Saxon and Protestant?
Ultimately, there will also be many students who every year will not arrive on time for class after Easter Sunday — possibly because they also celebrate Easter Monday. Although the College has provisions to be excused from classroom responsibilities, not many students are well enough educated on the process.
The College should work to streamline the process and educate students about their different options.
It would be highly beneficial for the whole student body to have the Monday after Easter off, allowing everyone to make weekend plans with peace of mind of knowing that they will not be penalized as they are worrying about how their grades are still being finalized.
It is unfair to force students to choose between their religious or familial obligations and their schoolwork.
Email Gavin Aquin at