27 June, 2023
New York City has announced its decision to include Diwali, the festival of lights, as a public school holiday, acknowledging the vibrant South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities within the city. The addition of Diwali to the list of official holidays signifies the city administration's commitment to embracing its diverse population.
However, due to the already set school calendar, Diwali will not be observed as a public school holiday this year. The festival, which falls between October and November depending on the lunar calendar, will coincide with Sunday, November 12, making it an opportune time for families and communities to celebrate together.
City officials estimate that over 200,000 residents of New York City actively partake in Diwali celebrations, which include individuals from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist backgrounds. By recognizing Diwali as a public school holiday, the city aims to ensure that the school calendar reflects the cultural and religious diversity of its constituents. The addition of Diwali will join other festivities such as Rosh Hashana and Lunar New Year as official days off for students.
Mayor Eric Adams expressed his enthusiasm for the decision, stating, "This is a city that's continuously changing, continuously welcoming communities from all over the world." He further emphasized the need for the school calendar to mirror the evolving reality on the ground. The bill requires the approval of Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, to become official. The bill had already passed through the New York state legislature earlier this month.
Mayor Adams, who had promised to make Diwali a school holiday during his mayoral campaign in 2021, expressed confidence that Governor Hochul would sign the bill. Notably, Hochul had hosted a Diwali celebration last year, highlighting her appreciation for the cultural significance of the festival.
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, a key proponent of the bill, celebrated the long-awaited victory after a two-decade-long battle, dedicating the achievement to the country, the community, and the city of New York. The support and bipartisan efforts from leaders such as Mayor Adams and Senator Joe Addabbo played a crucial role in ensuring the unanimous passage of the bill.
The recognition of Diwali as an official public school holiday stems from the growing presence of the South Asian community in New York City. According to the 2021 American Community Survey, the population categorized as Asian Indian has more than doubled from 94,000 in 1990 to approximately 213,000, highlighting the need for inclusivity and cultural representation.