New York: Diwali will be a public school holiday in New York City starting next year, Mayor Eric Adams announced at a press conference on Thursday with state assembly woman Jenifer Rajkumar.
They were joined by Department of Education chancellor David Banks.
The announcement comes two days before the festival of lights, which falls on October 24.
“We are going to encourage children to learn about what is Diwali,” he added. “We’re going to have them start talking about what it is to celebrate the Festival of Lights, and how do you turn a light on within yourself,” Adams said.
The festival is celebrated by more than a billion people around the world, and signifies victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
“The time has come to recognise 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 recognise Diwali, said in the press conference.
For over two decades, South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans in New York have been fighting for a school holiday on Diwali.
“People have said that there’s simply not enough room in the New York City school calendar to have a Diwali school holiday,” the assemblywoman said. “Well, my legislation makes the room,” said Rajkumar, the first South Asian American woman elected to state-level office in New York.
The new school schedule will still have 180 school days, as is required by the state’s education laws, Rajkumar added.
Adding Diwali to the school calendar replaces the little-known Brooklyn-Queens Day — which originated as a Protestant holiday celebrated in the 1800s.