Diwali, the Hindu holiday known as the “Festival of Lights,” will be a public school holiday in New York City next year.
Mayor Eric Adams announced plans to add the holiday to the public school schedule On Thursday morning, at a press conference with state Rep. Jenifer Rajkumar and Department of Education Chancellor David Banks, Legislators changed the anniversary, traditionally celebrated on the first Thursday of June in the public school calendar, to Diwali.
Diwali is an important Hindu festival but is also celebrated by some Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains. The date of Diwali varies. This year, the five-day holiday begins on October 24.
“The time has come to recognize the more than 200,000 Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains in New York who celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights,” introduced Rajkumar’s legislation to recognize Diwali, said in a press conference. He called the anniversary “an obscure and old-fashioned day” compared to Diwali, which is celebrated by “a growing number of New Yorkers.”
“People said that the school calendar in New York just doesn’t have room for the Diwali holiday,” the assemblywoman said. “Well, my legislation makes room.”
The new school plan still has 180 study days according to the state education law, Rajkumar added.
The compiler also referred to Adams’ cheerful descriptions of him as a “Hindu mayor” for his plant-based diet and meditation practice.
During the conference, Adams called the decision “long overdue” recognition of the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist communities.
“We encourage children to learn what Diwali is,” se said. “We get them talking about what it’s like to celebrate the Festival of Light and how you turn on the light within yourself.”
“As we take this time to recognize Diwali, we recognize the light that is within us, the light that can clearly drive out the darkness,” the mayor said.
New York State education laws require at least 180 days of instruction. However, no holidays could be added to the school calendar to meet this minimum requirement of 180 days.
Rajkumar said that by eliminating the outdated anniversary school holiday that no one observes, his legislation would make way for school holidays for Diwali, meeting the minimum requirement of 180 days of school.
She thanked Adams for his support and said it was the first time in the city’s history that a mayor had decided to make Diwali a school holiday.