Diwali declared holiday in New York City after PM Modi’s visit

Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha are already part of New York City’s list of public school holidays

NEW DELHI | Updated: 28 June, 2023 11:43 am IST
Diwali is celebrated annually in India and many other parts of the world as a triumph of light over darkness

NEW DELHI: Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, New York City has announced a public school holiday on the Hindu festival of Diwali.

This decision follows recent legislation passed by state lawmakers, making Diwali a holiday in the nation’s largest school system, announced Mayor Eric Adams.

In his announcement, the politician from President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party said that the step signifies that New York is a city for everyone, regardless of their background.

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Diwali is celebrated annually in India and many other parts of the world as a triumph of light over darkness and commemorates Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the symbol of evil. The festival is also celebrated by Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhist believers.

Diwali is celebrated by the US President at the White House every year in the presence of noted Indian-Americans.

The holiday will be recognized as a school holiday for the first time in 2024 since it falls on Sunday, November 12 this year.

Mayor Adams expressed confidence that Governor Kathy Hochul would sign the bill, although her office stated that she is currently reviewing it. Governor Hochul has previously supported efforts to acknowledge Diwali.

In recent years, New York City’s public schools have closed in observance of major religious and cultural celebrations, including Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha. However, many South Asian and Indo-Caribbean parents and advocates had been disappointed that Diwali was not included.

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Mayor Adams had promised during his election campaign that Diwali would become a school holiday, but he opted to involve state lawmakers to enact the change. Assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar, the sponsor of the bill, described the announcement as a decades-long effort that emphasizes Diwali’s status as an American holiday and recognizes the South Asian community as an integral part of the American story. Rajkumar is the first Hindu American and the first South Asian woman to be elected to state office in New York.

Adding Diwali to the school calendar faced a challenge due to the requirement for schools to offer 180 days of instruction under state law. To accommodate Diwali, officials had to replace another observance or eliminate an extra day set aside for emergencies or inclement weather. The removal of “Anniversary Day,” which recognizes the city’s earliest Protestant Sunday schools, was considered, but the final decision was left to the city.

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