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 US state to do so. And following suit, New York also plans to declare the festival of Diwali as a national holiday. Here are all the details.
When did Pennsylvania declare Diwali a holiday?
The bill to make Diwali an official holiday was introduced by Pennsylvania state senators Greg Rothman and Nikil Saval in February this year. The bill was passed unanimously in the Senate and signed into law by the Governor.
Diwali is an important 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 an important 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 is a very large and vibrant community in my district, in Cumberland County, of Asian Indians who I have gotten to know.”
“My youngest daughter was born to an Asian Indian doctor and my dentist is an Asian Indian American. “I hope she sends a message to the Asian community, but also to all immigrants that Pennsylvania is a welcoming place and we appreciate cultural diversity, and we appreciate you coming here,” she added.
Bill on track to make Diwali a state holiday in Pennsylvania https://t.co/46HUJXmu70
– Greg Rothman (@wgregrothman)
April 29, 2023
READ| Pennsylvania House of Representatives celebrates diversity and declares Hindu festival Diwali a holiday
New York City will 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 10, 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
— Assembly Member 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 achieve this victory for my community and for New York. For more than 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 Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain faiths.
“Nothing can stop a community whose time has come. As the first Indian-American woman elected to office in New York State, I will always fight for all emerging communities to be heard.” she added.
The bill passed with 33 votes in favor and is currently awaiting Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature.
If the bill becomes law, New York City would become the first major U.S. city to make Diwali a school holiday. This would be a huge win for the South Asian community in New York City and would help raise awareness for the festival.
The passage of the bill was a victory for the South Asian community in New York City. The community has been pushing for Diwali to be recognized as a school holiday for years.
The bill was supported by several elected officials, including Mayor Eric Adams and Comptroller Brad Lander. The bill also had support from the New York City Department of Education.
This will have a number of positive impacts. It will allow students celebrating Diwali to participate in the festival without having to miss school. It will also help raise awareness of the festival among the wider community.
The bill is also a sign of New York City’s growing diversity. 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.