Diwali is now set to become a public school holiday in New York City, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Monday.
What it is: Diwali is a South Asian festival of lights. It is primarily observed by Hindus, but also Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. It is associated with various deities and events. In essence, it is a spiritual celebration of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil.
When it is: Diwali is based on the Hindu lunar calendar, which counts each month as one full revolution of the moon around Earth. The celebration begins in the Hindu months of Asvina and Kartika, which fall in mid-October or mid-November. Diwali typically lasts for five days.
This year, Diwali falls on Nov. 12 — a Sunday — so it will be a school holiday for the first time in 2024.
How it’s observed: As a festival of lights, Diwali celebrations involve displays of fireworks, lanterns, candles and oil lamps called diyas. Food and gifts also play a central role in bringing together families, friends and communities, who wear their finest clothes for the occasion. Parades and events with performances are also organized.
The bigger picture: New Yorkers who celebrate Diwali have been calling for its inclusion as a public school holiday for decades. In his announcement Monday, Adams described New York as “a city that’s continuously changing, continuously welcoming communities from all over the world,” and so its school calendar “must reflect the new reality on the ground.”
The decision to make the change official now rests on Gov. Kathy Hochul after state legislature passed a corresponding bill earlier this month. Last month, Rep. Grace Meng introduced legisltation that would make Diwali a federal holiday.