Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thinking About the Upcoming Holidays

I can't believe how fast time is flying. September is halfway through and Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) is coming up very quickly. The High Holy Days are an interesting time in terms of work and time off. Because the Jewish calendar is lunar-based, the days that the holidays fall out on change from year to year. Some combinations seem to be more challenging than others, such as the years that see all the holidays falling out in conjunction with Shabbat, giving us 3 days in a row where no work can be done not once, not twice, but three times in a month. That isn't the case this year, but there are challenges any way it falls out.

This year Rosh Hashana begins just before sundown on Monday, September 29th and ends Wednesday night, October 1st. Yom Kippur is Thursday, October 9th. Sukkot is an 8 day holiday where the first two and last two days are full festivals and the intermediate days are semi-festivals. Its full holiday days are from Monday night, October 13th to Wednesday night, October 15th and from Monday night, October 20th to Wednesday night, October 22nd.

What does that mean? Well, for 2 out of 4 weeks we work Monday, are off Tuesday and Wednesday, then go back to work for Thursday and Friday. The first week should follow that pattern but the Monday is a Statutory Holiday (Candadian Thanksgiving) so we're off that day too. The one week that's different we're off on Thursday instead for a 25 hour fast (no eating or drinking).

It makes for a series of very fractured work weeks and school is also out over this time. For those of us who work for Jewish organizations the time off is not a problem. Our offices are closed and many of us get paid for religious holidays.

But it can be very difficult for Observant Jews who work in secular jobs. Some people take vacation days, others take days without pay and there are definitely employers who make it difficult to take one or 2 days off at a time (because they generally require people to take a week of vacation at a time). It's true that it's a human rights issue (in Canada it is forbidden to discriminate against someone for religious reasons) but it's often difficult to arrange things with employers who have never dealt with this before and who don't understand.

Then there are all the people who think the holidays are just that, days when you kick back and do nothing. Not so much. In addition to walking to and from services each day, there are 2 big meals per day on each holiday (as well as on Shabbat every week). Even when Yom Kippur rolls around there is a meal before the fast that's supposed to carry you through and a break-the-fast meal afterwards. That's a lot of cooking, especially if you have a big family or invite a lot of guests. So the food bills tend to go up at this time of the year even when our take-home pay may be temporarily lower. Since we don't turn lights off and on during holidays or the Sabbath or turn the stove top or oven off or on there is often a bit of an increase in the electric bill (which may or may not be countered by the fact that we don't run the dishwasher or laundry equipment and don't use the TV or computer).

Luckily for me, I get paid for religious holidays (4 hours pay per day) and don't have to use my vacation time for them (except for the intermediate days, if I choose to take them off). And in October I'm going to get 3 pay cheques! Right now I'm hoping that we'll spend the bulk of Sukkot in the Okanagan, which means taking either 2 or possibly 3 days off. We'll see. If I do take the days I already have the money for them sitting in an ING sub account ($50/day after taxes, based on a 4 hour day) and I have 10 days of vacation left.

Now I just have to start thinking about the food and planning when we're having family over, etc. Help!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it is nice that you observe your holidays vs. just looking at them as a day off. I can tell they are very important to you.