Governor signs legislation making Diwali public school holiday in New York

by IANS |

New York, Nov 15 (IANS) New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed a historic legislation making Diwali a school holiday in public schools.

The legislation requires that all public schools in the city be closed on the “15th day of the eighth month of the Indian calendar in each year, which is known as Diwali”.

“New York City is rich in different religions and cultures, and we’re taking an important step to recognize and celebrate this diversity in the school calendar,” Governor Hochul said in a press statement.

“This legislation to designate Diwali as a New York City school holiday is an opportunity for our children to learn about and celebrate traditions from across the world,” she added.

The legislation was signed during a special reception at the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing during Diwali celebrations.

"I believe that a celebration of light should not be commemorated in the dark. That’s why tonight, we took action to bring people together," Hochul wrote on X.

The press statement from Hochul's office said that the legislation "amends the education law to declare Diwali a holiday for New York City public schools".

“Many people of the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist faiths in New York City and throughout the state observe the festival of Diwali and more than 1 billion people around the world celebrate this holiday,” the statement read.

The move came after the New York State legislature on June 9 passed a Bill to make Diwali a school holiday in the city with efforts from NYC Mayor Eric Adams and Indian-origin Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar.

"With the signing of my bill, we have lit an everlasting lamp in the hearts and minds of all New Yorkers... By signing my bill, we say to over 600,000 Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist New Yorkers, ‘We see you, we recognise you, and Diwali is an American holiday,’” Rajkumar, the first Hindu American and first South Asian American woman elected to New York state office, said.

Rajkumar said that for over two decades, the South Asian community has lobbied for the Diwali holiday. Two earlier attempts to pass the legislation in 2021 and 2022 did not succeed.

"In this time of local and global racism and anger, Diwali’s message is critically important and needed. The Diwali celebration not only represents the rich cultural heritage of our diverse community, but also serves as a reminder of the values that bind us together," State Senator Joseph Addabbo said, thanking Hochul.

According to city officials, more than two lakh New York residents celebrate Diwali which is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania became the first US state to officially recognise Diwali as a public holiday.

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