Unlike my Nigerian folks, I did not have any holidays on Monday and Tuesday to celebrate the end of the Moslem fast. If I was back home in Nigeria, I’d be home resting on Monday while I ran late trying to meet up with a class. Reham the Egyptian celebrated her Eid festival in the quiet of her flat while all her folks at home stayed back from work to rest and feast. In Nigeria, there is a public holiday for every religious holiday from Christmas, Easter to the two Moslem Eid festivals in the year. On a curios but worrying note, there is no public holiday (yet) for any African traditional religion!

Playing games on a work-free dayThere are no Eid holidays in the United States for obvious reasons: it is regarded more as a Christian state when it’s not being seen as secular. The actual reason is that there are too many holidays every year in the country, and none of them have to do with religion. That’s what I think at least, because Christmas is all about the festival, the movies and Santa Claus, and less of the birth of Jesus Christ. No one knew when Jesus was born precisely anyway. The December 25 date was only arbitrarily picked by one dead pope to signify a day of the year for followers to remember. Neither is Thanksgiving any more than a celebration of life, health and family. The formerly large purpose of gathering to praise God for a bountiful harvest must have been overtaken by the fact of growing skepticism in religion and belief in God, and the decline of subsistence or commercial farming based solely on the variables of nature. Science has ultimately come to the rescue, and I have a feeling that the God of thanksgiving may not be as large a guest at the dinner table as he used to be.

Now, let me say here that I haven’t had my first Thanksgiving in the US, and I’m looking forward to it, especially the holiday it provides. The above thoughts are merely random, perhaps reflective of the state of belief, religion and God in today’s America. Ben, my flatmate, doesn’t know whether an afterlife exists, nor does he put much thought to its existence, or that of God, because to him, it will be worse if one does good only because of a selfish desire to be accepted in the afterlife than a genuine willingness to help other people. I find this reasonable.

In my country Nigeria on Monday and Tuesday, there were days of rest from work. I like to see it as a much deserved holiday for the hardworking citizens, and not just a sacrifice to some God after a thirty days ritual of fasting. But if it makes people happier to believe it to be just so, I possess no right to deny them the privilege. When Christmas comes in December, there will also be a holiday season for the Nigerian Christians to have their own moments of feasting and sharing, which is another component of religious holidays in Nigeria. Will America learn anything from the demarcation of holiday days for religious breaks in Nigeria? I doubt it. I seriously doubt also that it ever needs to. If permitted in America, every known and registered religion will sue for its own holidays and there’d be no days left to work. Let us do with Martin Luther King Holidays, Halloween fun shows, July 4th holiday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labour day, and a few other distinctly American holidays, and we can all go our ways. Problem is, once in a while, a yet unadapted foreigner from a multi religious country like Nigeria will show up in America, and come late to class on a normal American Monday, thinking all the while that because his folks at home are on break, he should also be too.

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