Minorities + Celebrating your holidays

Okay friends, let’s talk about minorities celebrating holidays. Lets say you live in America and you’re a Muslim celebrating Ramadan (🙋🏽‍♀️), a Hindu celebrating Diwali (🪔) or even a Mexican or latino celebrating Dia de los muertos (💀), and you want to continue celebrating those holidays? This blog post is for you. Minorities have an uphill battle celebrating their holidays, so we’ll touch on some issues that they face.

I’ll go over what/who are minorities? What are some challenges minorities face when celebrating holidays? And most importantly, why does it matter? Lets get into it.

This blog post was inspired by a Tik Tok I made about fasting during Ramadan (tik tok video about minorities celebrating holidays here!). For context, I live in America and am considered a minority since there aren’t many Muslims in Florida/America. In the video I talk about how I watched another influencer’s vlog about a day in the life Ramadan edition in Pakistan. And y’all, I was shocked at how much more the lifestyle in Pakistan was encouraging of Muslims to fast/participate in Ramadan. Restaurants were open later/earlier in the morning, gyms changed their hours, and everybody was in this headspace of prayer and spiritual searching. Yea, needless to say my experience isn’t that in the US haha. But let’s first get into what or who are minorities?

What, or better, who are minorities?

If you google the definition of a “minority” (I just did), you get

“A culturally, ethnically, or racially distinct group that coexists with but is subordinate to a more dominant group.”

https://www.britannica.com/topic/minority

Simply put, a minority means the lesser amount of people in a specific population depending on race, religion, ethnicity, etc. A silly example can be different colored MnMs in 1 bag of peanut MnMs (because peanut MnMs are clearly the superior MnMs):

# different colored MnMs

Blue 🔵50
Red 🔴15
Green 🟢3
These are absolutely incorrect numbers and this is not a sponsored post, I just really like peanut MnMs.

In the example above, blue colored MnMs clearly outnumber the Red/Green chocolate colored delicacies, so blue would be considered the majority. Red/Green MnMs are the minority MnMs.

Being a minority depends on your environment, essentially who you are surrounded with. There can be minorities across all facets of life (religion, race, ethnicity, etc).

Minorities’ Holidays

Now lets talk about minorities celebrating holidays. It can get really weird and hard to celebrate depending on where you’re located.

Some uphill battles that minorities face while celebrating holidays include…….

1. Not many people are talking about it

We’ve all been there. The holiday is coming up and it’s aaaaaaallll you can think about. You wait around all year for this holiday. It’s a big day/season!! And you can 👏🏽 not 👏🏽 wait 👏🏽. So naturally, you go to work. And nobody at work is talking about it. Nobody at work even knows what it is.

Oookay, that’s weird. So then you go out to your favorite local coffee shop, and nobody there knows about it either. Weirder…

You get the picture. Many people in your life which you interact with on a daily basis have no idea this holiday is happening, because it is YOUR holiday. It’s not a well-known fact (even if you’re wearing a hijab and it’s Ramadan, it’s not likely people will know what is going on when interacting with you). So, that kinda sucks that you’re the only one in a celebratory mood (for the rest of the people you interact with, it could just be another Monday).

This external validation is important because many times if you tie this holiday with your identity (ie: a religious holiday, cultural holiday, etc), then by not receiving external validation, people are inadvertently not acknowledging a significant piece of who you are and who you identify as. And all that can be done unconsciously as well (it’s not like people are out to get you, they simply don’t know about it). Crazy 🤯.

3 People celebrating solemnly with party decor. Gif by @ConnerPrairieIN from giphy.com
3 People celebrating solemnly with party decor. Gif by @ConnerPrairieIN from giphy.com

2. You have to explain to people what your holiday is

You get the picture, people don’t know about this oh so special holiday of yours that makes you YOU. Soooooo why not explain your holiday to them? What a great idea dearest reader! You can tell everyone that your holiday is coming up (which I end up doing for most of my holidays 😂).

Now before I make my point, let me state that I am all for inclusivity. I think it’s absolutely amazing when we bring everyone together to celebrate our holidays (Cue We are faaamillyyyyy 🎶).

However, this is an uphill battle. Many minorities may not have the tools to explain to outsiders what their holiday is. Who initially celebrated it? Why do you cut a lamb on only one Eid and not the other? Do you always have to eat a date when breaking your fast? Why do you have to clean every inch of your house for Diwali, isn’t it just supposed to be a New Years celebration?

And on and on and on. Many of us who are minorities (or who grew up as minorities) may have no idea what the hell this outsider is talking about. We just know it’s always been done this way and it makes many of us feel like home. Additionally, we may not have done the necessary work to make distinctions between the cultural/religious/familial traditions we partake in (aka this is just done in MY family, versus it’s a cultural thing), etc.

On top of that we all know as first gen desis, our parents aren’t always the most communicative (sometimes it feels like pulling teeth), and their focus in life was very different than ours (🤑 or financial stability, and duly so. Because of this we may feel at a loss of words not having the proper resources we needed when growing up.

Now let me tell you what happens when we as minorities don’t feel like we have all the answers:

  • We may feel we need to know what the hell we’re talking about, since this is OUR tradition, making us feel guilt and shame and not really a “part” of our tradition.
  • It may make us feel disconnected with the majority of the population (like great, yet another thing that makes us feel different).

It can also be awkward at times for minorities to even bring up their holiday to other people (it takes a lot of confidence to do this in the general society, something I think minorities are getting better at, but we’re not quite there yet).

So where does this leave us?

Lost dosts, lost and confused. Though of course this may not be the case for every person (it’s just a generalization/happened in my personal case, don’t @ me folks), this can even happen subconsciously with a first-gen desi not even realizing it.**

3. Minorities don’t automatically get time off from work for their holidays

This one’s pretty simple. As minorities in your country, you automatically don’t get time off for your holidays. Albeit simple this is HUGE y’all. Many people don’t know about your holiday, they don’t understand your holiday, and you don’t automatically have work off for this holiday.

Photo of gray and white Lemur having a "seriously" expression. Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash.
Photo of gray and white Lemur having a “seriously” expression. Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash.

This makes it ridiculously difficult to actually celebrate your holiday. You may have to use your personal time off from work to celebrate (and this in itself is an issue because you may only have a certain number of personal days).

And you have to get this time approved. I remember when I wanted to participate in a special event (called the Diamond Jubilee) where I needed to fly to Houston (it was a religious celebration y’all, and goodness was it amazing 💃🏽). My boss barely gave me the time off. Luckily I had resources from my religious tradition to get it approved. However getting time approved is a quick way for the majority to have you not celebrating your holiday (and it’s not out of spite either! It could be the work culture that is embedded in your country, ie: America).

4. It’s business as usual

Now friends, if people around you don’t know about it, you’d have to explain to them your holiday, and you don’t automatically get time off, it’s safe to say that it’s business as usual. There’s no demarcation of time recognized by the general society in which you participate for your holiday. Your holiday does not get recognition. And #representationmatters (another blog post on this coming soon!).

Since your holiday isn’t recognized and business is going on, deadlines are still a thing, work assignments are still a thing, events are still a thing. And this can put a real damper on your holiday friends (ie: there was a user’s comment on the tik tok video that said work lunch events are still happening even though the company was aware it was Ramadan. It’s really easy to make a work event without food too).

Let me give you a quick example of what this looks like in the real world. There’s a video of 2 Muslim girls participating in a slam poetry contest. They absolutely CRUSHED it, but that’s not the point. This slam poetry contest took place on EID, one of the 2 major holidays for muslims. And instead of being with their families, they were standing there, in front of hundreds of people, reciting poetry. They even mentioned it in their piece.

It’s business as usual folks (link if you want to check out the 2 young Muslim women doing their slam poetry bit here, you won’t regret it).

5. It’s another thing that makes you different

Now pham, I know this one is tough, but this holiday further differentiates you from the general society. And if you are a first gen American (or any country really) that has tried very hard to fit in to succeed, celebrating this holiday can further you from the majority, therefore further separating you from relating to other people.***

Though I am blessed to have the opportunity to work on myself and celebrate my own diversity (and acknowledge that it’s a celebration to be different 🥳), this is not the case for everyone else.

Why should minorities care about celebrating holidays?

So dosts, we’ve reached the end of the post where yes, it’s difficult for minorities to celebrate holidays. But the real question is, why? Why does this matter? Who cares if a minority doesn’t celebrate their holidays?

Here’s the harsh reality folks. If you as a minority want to continue to keep the tradition alive (which is completely and utterly up to YOU, no one can make that decision for you) and feel it’s important to your identity: celebrate your holiday. If you don’t celebrate your holiday, it’s very likely that it can simply disintegrate as the years pass by just by virtue of being a minority.

So dosts, moral of the story is if you want this holiday to persevere in your families and households, take proactive action to incorporate these holidays and celebrate them (blog post on how to do this coming soon!).

Talk about those holidays to your families. Explain the significance of them to your children. Take children to places that celebrate those holidays with people who look and act like you #representationmatters. And with a little bit of luck and some work, it will become a family tradition.

Now dosts, I would like to reiterate that there is NOTHING wrong with taking up other people’s holidays (as long as you’re respectful about it) or deciding to not continue “yours” or your heritage’s. Identity is a tricky thing and the biggest thing in identity is that YOU get to decide what YOUR identity is. This post just helps people who do consider a specific holiday from their culture/heritage theirs and want to continue it. If that’s not you, no harm no foul no guilt! I have no doubt you’re still a pretty awesome human being 😎.

To light, love, and life,

Heens ✨

Psssst, I’d like to point out and reiterate that I am not a mental health professional and this is not a form of therapy. These posts are based on my experiences and helped me in my journey. There are local websites available for professional mental health services.

**PS: I’d like to point out that this does not have to be the intention of the outsider asking questions, they can genuinely want to learn more about a minority’s celebrations, which is amazing! But despite the intention the result is very well the same.

***By the way pham, I think being different is AMAZING. But this point illustrates that it’s harder to “fit in” to a society that regards other people as different. It’s like getting a job in a different field with transferable skills. You have all the skills necessary to succeed at that job, but you’ll still have to convince the company of that.

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