Way Too Many Holidays in Kurdistan

Kurdishaspect.com - By Helene Sairany

Studies reveal the average time off in European Union countries is now 34.4 days, compared with just 25 in the US. Overall, employees in Lithuania are entitled to the greatest amount of paid leave, with 41 holidays per year. France and Finland come close in second, with 40 holidays a year. What about Kurdistan?  Just in the month of March, the average time off is 20-25 days.

Ramadan of this year, work hours were cut down by 2-3 hours daily for the whole month. Why? Because of fasting. Following Ramadan, a whole week was granted as a holiday for the feast of Eid il-Fitr. Two months later, another 7 days were granted for the Eid il Adha holiday, followed by the 1st day of the Islamic Calendar and the 10th day of the Muharam. All these days are sacred days; therefore they are considered holidays.

My dear reader, Kurdistan is the only region in the whole world that practices 3 new years; Nawruz, January 1st and the first day of the Islamic calendar. 

Woah! Here comes winter break, which is another week of celebration, but I would not be a bit surprised to see the holiday extend to two weeks. Sooner or later, March will be on board.  You know what that means? It means Nawruz, hence the whole month will be a holiday because it is the Kurdish New Year.

We are still in the New Year’s mood, and here I am told that January 2nd is an official holiday followed by January 6th for the National Iraqi Army Day.

What do all these holidays and time off mean to me, as a college lecturer? FRUSTRATION!! I have changed the course syllabus and planner for the 10thbloody time.  I am thinking to myself, is it even worth having a syllabus in this country? Every time I finalize the syllabus and intend to email it to my students, I am informed of another holiday.  Exam schedules continue to change, quizzes and appointments continue to postpone because of holidays.

It is becoming a tradition when people learn about a result of some sort, they cancel work and classes to carry banners and celebrate on the streets till late.  The second students learn about a holiday falling in the middle of the week, (e.g. Tuesday and Friday being the weekend here); they will put in all their due effort complaining and whining to have the following two days off (e.g. Wednesday and Thursday) to have the rest of the week off.

I wonder if it is possible to plan with this time off?  Or let me rephrase my question; is productivity ever possible with all these holidays?  I know holidays jeopardize your motivation to learn; it takes lots of effort to get back to the mood of learning after being off for so many days.

We need a culture of hard work and it starts in schools. There has to be some sort of law to introduce a single holiday period ahead of time for any given holiday period, for both the government and private sector.  In Europe, time off is enshrined in government legislation, so employers are forced to hire more staff to cover the gaps. In the US, however, there's a focus on maintaining productivity.

Friends living in the States are envious of the Kurdish holiday spirit.  While way too many holidays causes me frustration, people on the other side of the pond wish if they could have a few more days off.  "We work too hard and no one is happy. No wonder we have to make ourselves feel better by invading other countries." says a friend.


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December 31, 2010
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