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Diwali Becomes a Public School Holiday in New York City


New York City Schools will celebrate Diwali starting in 2024, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Monday. Efforts are being made in the New York state legislature as well as at a national level to mark the holiday.* Supporters, mostly from India and neighboring countries, have worked for decades to have the holiday recognized in various parts of the United States. The act still requires the signature of New York’s democratic governor Kathy Hochul, but it is believed that she will sign it.

“We’re now saying New York is made for everyone,” Adams said. “No matter where you came from.” (The New York Times)

The New York Department of Education also announced additional days off celebrating 1 April, the day after Easter, 29 and 30 April for the two days of Passover, and 17 June for Eid al-Adha. Recently, the Lunar New Year was added to the public schools list of holidays.

“Our school calendar must reflect the new reality on the ground,” Adams said at a press conference on Monday, “and cannot reflect the absence of those who are not being acknowledged—and we do it within the restraints of having a calendar that we must respect by law, and we will continue to do so.” (Daily News)

New York City, home to 8.47 million people, has one of the highest concentrations of South Asians in the US, with some 600,000 South Asians living in the city. Adams was joined by State Assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar, the first Hindu American and first South Asian American woman elected to state office in New York, at City Hall for the announcement.

“Today we say to over 600,000 Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain Americans, we see you,” Rajkumar said. “Today we say to families from India, Guyana, Trinidad, Nepal, and Bangladesh, we recognize you.” (ABC 7 NY)

Diwali is one of the most important holidays of the year in India, celebrating the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, with people across faith traditions lighting candles, sharing food and sweets, and giving gifts. Fireworks are common, and people often spend the holiday shopping at markets or enjoying local fairs. Many Buddhists take the opportunity to commemorate the conversion of emperor Ashoka (r. 265–238 BCE) to Buddhism.


“It’s less about the fact that schools will be closed in recognition of Diwali,” said schools chancellor David Banks. “It is more about the fact that minds will be opened because of what we are going to teach them about Diwali.” (NY Daily News)

This year, Diwali falls on 12 November, a Sunday. So 2024, when it falls on a Monday, will be the first year that students enjoy a day off from school in New York City.

Advocates are continuing their efforts at state and federal levels with the goal of further recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the nation.

* US Congresswoman Introduces Legislation to Make Diwali a National Holiday (BDG)

See more

NYC officially declares Diwali a public school holiday, students will have day off starting in 2024 (ABC 7 NY)
Diwali becomes NYC public school holiday (Daily News)
Diwali Is Set to Become a School Holiday in New York City (The New York Times)

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