New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently announced plans to make Diwali a public school holiday starting in 2023.
Adams, alongside state assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar and Department of Education Chancellor David Banks, made the announcement during a press conference on Thursday.
The multi-day festival of lights, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, will replace Anniversary Day, a holiday also known as Brooklyn-Queens Day that is celebrated on the first Thursday of June.
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“We are going to encourage children to learn about what is Diwali,” Adams said. “We’re going to have them start talking about what it is to celebrate the festival of lights and how do you turn the light on within yourself. There’s too many children in our Department of Education that believe their lives is one dark moment after a dark moment.”
This year’s Diwali celebration will kick off on Oct. 22. Since Adams made his announcement just recently, it is expected that Diwali will become a public school holiday in New York City starting in 2023. Additionally, the bill needs to be passed in Albany before becoming an official public school holiday. During Diwali, millions of people light up their homes and also decorate them with flowers and rangolis, an art form that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Many believe that Diwali is the day when Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, visits Earth and blesses humankind.
Although this year’s celebration will start in just a few days, the date for Diwali changes each year.
“The time has come to recognize over 200,000 New Yorkers of the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain faiths who celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights,” Rajkumar, who introduced legislation to swap out Anniversary Day for Diwali, said.
“In removing the antiquated Anniversary Day school holiday that is observed by no one, my legislation makes the room for Diwali,” she added. “For over two decades, South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans in New York have been fighting for the Diwali school holiday. I stand on the shoulders of those advocates.”