New York City, recognized worldwide for its diversity and dynamism, has once again showcased its commitment to inclusivity by announcing plans to add the South Asian festival of Diwali to its list of public school holidays. This decision, unveiled by Mayor Eric Adams on Monday, underlines the burgeoning influence of the city’s South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities.
Diwali: A Celebration of Light
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an annual holiday celebrated by millions worldwide. It usually falls in October or November, with its timing determined by the lunar calendar. Diwali is a major celebration for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists, marking the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. More than 200,000 NYC residents partake in these festivities every year, reflecting the city’s vibrant multicultural fabric.
Despite the new addition to the NYC public school calendar, the timing of Diwali in 2023 means the change will not have an immediate impact on the academic schedule. This year, Diwali falls on Sunday, November 12.
Reflecting the City’s Evolving Identity
In his announcement, Mayor Adams emphasized the importance of the city’s school calendar mirroring its multicultural identity. “This is a city that’s continuously changing, continuously welcoming communities from all over the world,” he said, adding, “Our school calendar must reflect the new reality on the ground.”
This recognition of Diwali marks it as a day off for students, joining other significant holidays such as Rosh Hashana and the Lunar New Year.
Approval Awaited from Governor Hochul
The recognition of Diwali as a public school holiday will officially come into effect once Governor Kathy Hochul signs the respective bill. The bill was earlier approved by the New York State Legislature this month.
Mayor Adams, who committed to recognizing Diwali as a school holiday during his mayoral campaign in 2021, is optimistic about Governor Hochul approving the legislation. Governor Hochul’s office disclosed that she is presently reviewing all the bills passed by the legislature in 2023.
Recognizing the Growing Influence of South Asians
The move towards the official recognition of Diwali is an acknowledgment of the increasing numbers and influence of South Asians in New York and across the nation. According to the Census Bureau, the population of NYC residents identified as Asian Indian has more than doubled in the last three decades, surging from 94,000 in 1990 to about 213,000 as per the 2021 American Community Survey.
Representative Grace Meng, a Democrat who serves parts of the NYC borough of Queens, introduced legislation last month to make Diwali a federal holiday, further testifying to the increased recognition of South Asian communities.
Q1. What is Diwali?
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a significant holiday celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
Q2. When does Diwali occur?
Diwali usually takes place in October or November, depending on the lunar calendar. In 2023, Diwali falls on Sunday, November 12.
Q3. What does NYC’s recognition of Diwali as a public school holiday mean?
The decision means that NYC public school students will have a day off on Diwali, similar to other recognized holidays like Rosh Hashana and Lunar New Year.
Q4. When will the recognition of Diwali as a public school holiday in NYC officially come into effect?
The change will officially come into effect once Governor Kathy Hochul signs the respective bill that was passed by the New York State Legislature.
Q5. How many NYC residents celebrate Diwali?
It’s estimated that more than 200,000 NYC residents celebrate Diwali every year.