In a historic move, the US state of Pennsylvania recently declared Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, as an official state holiday. This makes Pennsylvania the first state in the US to do so. And following the lead, New York also plans to declare the festival of Diwali as a national holiday. Here are all the details.
When did Pennsylvania Declare Diwali as a Holiday?
The bill to make Diwali an official holiday was introduced by the Pennsylvania State Senators Greg Rothman and Nikil Saval in February this year. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and was signed into law by the Governor.
Diwali is a major cultural and religious festival for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists. It is a five-day festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.
The decision to make Diwali an official state holiday in Pennsylvania became a significant step in recognizing the contributions of the South Asian community to the state.
Pennsylvania Senator Greg Rothman stated in an interview with abc27 that: “There’s a very large, vibrant community in my district, in Cumberland County of Asian Indians who I’ve gotten to know.”
“My youngest daughter was delivered by an Asian Indian doctor, my dentist is an Asian Indian American. I hope it sends a message to the Asian community, but then all immigrants that Pennsylvania is a welcoming place and we appreciate cultural diversity, and we appreciate you coming here,” he added.
New York City to Make Diwali a School Holiday
In addition to Pennsylvania, New York City has also taken steps to recognize Diwali. The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar on June 11, which would make Diwali a school holiday in the city for the more than 200,000 city residents who celebrate it.
Shortly after midnight on June 10th, 2023, we made history. It was the final victory in a decades long fight by the South Asian community when the state assembly passed my bill to make Diwali a School Holiday in New York City. @NYSA_Majority pic.twitter.com/rlvEutYXqH — Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (@JeniferRajkumar) June 16, 2023
Assemblywoman Jenifer stated: “I was proud to lead the movement to make Diwali a School Holiday in New York City. And today, I am proud to deliver this victory for my community and for New York. For over 20 years, the South Asian community has fought for this moment.”
“Today, I am proud to announce that the entire New York State Legislature came together and spoke with one voice to pass my bill enshrining the Diwali School Holiday into law. This is a historic moment, as our government recognizes hundreds of thousands of South Asian New Yorkers of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain faiths.
“Nothing can stop a community whose time has come. As the first Indian-American woman elected to a New York State office, I will always fight for every emerging community to be heard,” she added.
The bill was passed with 33 in favour and it is currently awaiting the signature of Governor Kathy Hochul.
If the bill is signed into law, New York City would become the first major city in the US to make Diwali a school holiday. This would be a major victory for the South Asian community in New York City and would help to raise awareness of the festival.
The passage of the bill was a victory for the South Asian community in New York City. The community has been lobbying for years to have Diwali recognized as a school holiday.
The bill was supported by a number of elected officials, including Mayor Eric Adams and Comptroller Brad Lander. The bill also had the support of the New York City Department of Education.
This will have a number of positive impacts. It will allow students who celebrate Diwali to take part in the festival without having to miss school. It will also help to raise awareness of the festival among the wider community.
The bill is also a sign of the growing diversity of New York City. The city is home to a large and growing South Asian community, and the passage of the bill is a recognition of the importance of that community.