Friday, July 17, 2009

Public Holidays

I have been inspired by this post of my dear friend Beatrice over at A gringa's thoughts about Ex-pat living in Santiago, Chile and decided to write my own post about the public holiday phenomenon here in Southern Sudan.

There are a total of 15 public holidays a year, not including the spontaneously announced ones for things like Obama being elected President of the US. CPA Day, SPLM Day, Martyrs Day, etc. Our office also counts July 4th and Thanksgiving day as holidays (random...). Half of the government holidays are canceled the day before or the day of the scheduled holiday and moved to later in the week or the month. The announcements which are given on the radio and always come too late to tell our staff that they are still required to come into work, so they end up having both days off instead of one! For example, SPLM day, which was scheduled for May 16th, and then the announcement came at 8am on that very day that it would be moved to May 25th. All the celebratory firing of weapons on the 16th was for nothing. Sigh.

Then there are the holidays that are set based on the phases of the moon, like Eid ul-Adha ("greater Eid", Feast of the Sacrifice of Ishmael by Ibrahim), and Eid El-Fitr ("smaller Eid", marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan), where the same mixup occurs because the muslim community will call the holiday on one day, but the government will call it another day, therefore giving everyone both days off. Last year for Eid ul-Fitr this went on for 4 days before the 3 day holiday!

Makes planning work a bit confusing, and the ex-pats are still expected to work on these public holidays so it's not like we all get the day off, but the rest of the staff and the government employees are certainly happy about it!

Eid ul-Fitr is my favorite holiday of the bunch. Ramadan is a month where Muslims rise before dawn to eat the first meal, fast from sunrise to sunset, not even drinking water, and then break their fast once the sun has set. Once the appropriate phase of the moon is spotted, celebrations break out across town. Poeple wear their best clothes and walk to the mosques. Enormous quantities of food are prepared, and walking and driving around you find huge groups of people gathered all over the place sharing the feast. It is a time to give to those less fortunate, and the air is festive. Poeple wear their best clothes and walk to the mosques. I would be too if I had not been eating during the day for a whole month.

1 comment:

M.Lane said...

I'm going to start adopting the governmental posture at work! I'll say at 8 am the day before Thanksgiving that the formerly stated day off is being moved and we will all [in theory] get that day AND the new one AND Thanksgiving!!! What a scream!