“As the first Hindu-American and South Asian-American woman elected to state office in New York, I take special pride in advocating for new American communities, including those that celebrate Diwali,” Rajkumar
New York state legislature has passed a bill to make Diwali a school holiday in the city. Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar introducing the bill said, “It is long past time to honour” the “vibrant cultural heritage” of the South Asian, Indo-Caribbean, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist communities by making Diwali a School Holiday.
Both the Senate and the Assembly voted the bill before they ended their session early Saturday morning and it now goes to Governor Kathy Hochul for her expected signature to make it law.
An estimated 200,000 students from these communities will be able to celebrate the Festival of Lights in their own way, free of school.
“As the first Hindu-American and South Asian-American woman elected to state office in New York, I take special pride in advocating for new American communities, including those that celebrate Diwali,” Rajkumar said.
Two earlier attempts to pass the legislation in 2021 and 2022 did not succeed.
The bill overcame a last-minute hurdle after the bill’s sponsors, Rajkumar and State Senator Joseph Adabo dropped a proposal to have Diwali replace the Brooklyn-Queens Day holiday and leave it to the discretion of the city.
Diwali may instead replace an obscure holiday, Anniversary Day, to maintain the required 180 days of class required every year.
In February, New York City Council passed a resolution proposed by Councilwoman Linda Lee to make Diwali a school holiday, but it needed state-level approval.
New York Mayor Eric Adams has supported the legislation, unlike his predecessors, as has Schools Chancellor David Banks.
The New York Legislature also passed a bill to make the Lunar New Year a state-wide school holiday.
Grace Meng, a member of the US House of Representatives, who has introduced a bill to make Diwali a federal holiday, said, “The New York State Legislature’s approval of these two measures is a wonderful reminder and celebration of the great diversity that exists in our state, and underscores how this diversity should be reflected in the holidays observed by our residents”.
In an earlier acknowledgement of the significance of Diwali, New York City suspended in 2006 a parking regulation for Diwali, putting it on par with other religious holidays.
The City Council voted to override a veto by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to add the Festival of Lights to the list.
Suspension of the regulation against parking on a certain side of the roads on certain days is to ensure that those celebrating the holiday do not have to move their vehicles amid the festivities.