New Norwich calendar marks dozens of key dates for cultures around the world
Norwich — Norwich teachers wondering why a certain student isn’t in school on Feb. 12 or April 14 now can consult a special calendar posted on the school system website to see if there’s an important national or religious holiday on that date important to the student’s family.
It’s not the official school holiday or vacation calendar, but Norwich school officials and Global City Norwich have teamed up to create a cultural calendar denoting dozens of significant events to people of different cultures and nationalities worldwide.
The 2021 cultural calendar starts with Haitian Independence Day on Jan. 1 and runs through Kwanzaa Dec. 26 through Jan. 2. So far, 49 dates are listed, including 21 independence days — five Central American nations share Sept. 15 as their independence days.
Each slide show entry features colorful images, either photos of live events held in Norwich in recent years or flags or artwork from the culture or religion.
“Best Wishes — City of Norwich,” is printed at the base of each square.
The concept for the cultural calendar started with discussions between Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, Norwich Board of Education member and a leader in the Connecticut Sikh community, and Suki Lagrito, liaison for Global City Norwich, which had planned and hosted numerous international cultural events in downtown Norwich before COVID-19 forced cancelation of such gatherings.
“For some people it’s an independence day, or new year, or a faith leader day,” Khalsa said. “We have to keep in mind what day is important to that community. It’s an ongoing list. We are happy to add days that are important. Most of the images are days that are celebrated in Norwich.”
Norwich schools Assistant Superintendent Tamara Gloster and Jessica Dolliver, school system media communications manager, set up the cultural calendar slide show under Calendars on the school system’s website, www.norwichpublicschools.org, and continue to work on additions.
A person can click on a box to reach a form to suggest more dates and events. Khalsa researched each significant date and worked with school officials on brief descriptions to accompany the calendar.
For Holi, a festival celebrated in India on March 28, the description reads: “Indian festival of color celebrated in various parts of India. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Newar Buddhists and other secular non-Hindus observe this festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil.”
“This is a learning curve for us, because we’re not knowledgeable in everyone’s culture,” Gloster said. “We tried to stay away from anything controversial. A good point is that these are not school holidays. But we might find that a Tibetan student is absent on Feb. 12 and we might wonder why.”
Feb. 12 is Tibetan New Year.
Some traditional American holidays were among the last to be added, and some are still not listed, because organizers wanted to concentrate on the unknown holidays first. And, Gloster said, many of the major American holidays already are listed on the official school calendar as days when there’s no school.
“Everyone knows what Christmas is, but a lot of people don’t know about the other important days for our community,” Khalsa said. “Let’s say my kid doesn’t go to school on April 14, and the teachers don’t know why my daughter doesn’t show up. Or the teacher can ask her the next day: ‘How did you celebrate Vaisakhi?’ This will give kids more confidence about their cultures and who they are.”
Vaisakhi on April 14 is National Sikh Day.
In early December, the cultural calendar was presented to the Norwich Community Development Corp. Board of Directors. Khalsa is a board member, and Global City Norwich operates under NCDC, which serves as the city’s economic development agency. NCDC will post the cultural calendar on its website soon, and Lagrito said once the calendar is finalized, she hopes it can be posted on the city website, as well.
“So, as an outside investor, the first thing you do is go on the city website, and the first thing you see is the city of Norwich is a welcoming place,” Lagrito said. “The city celebrates diversity. Why not promote and market that? This is what the program is all about. It’s making connections with the local community and the nonlocal community.”