Diwali will be a public school holiday in New York City starting in 2023
Diwali will be a public school holiday in New York City starting 2023, with Mayor Eric Adams saying this sends a message about the significance of the city’s inclusiveness and this “long overdue" step will encourage children to learn about the festival of lights.
Adams, joined by New York Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, who had introduced the legislation to recognize Diwali and New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks, CNN reported.
He said that by declaring Diwali a holiday in New York City public schools, “we wanted to send a loud and clear message to the countless number of people who acknowledge this period of time of celebration.
“At the same time, this is an educational moment because when we acknowledge Diwali, we are going to encourage children to learn about Diwali. We're going to have them start talking about what it is to celebrate the festival of lights, and how to turn the light on within yourself," he said.
Legislators swapped out Anniversary Day, better known to old-timers as "Brooklyn-Queens Day," which is celebrated on the first Thursday in June, for Diwali in the public school calendar.
Anniversary Day has reportedly been on the books since 1829, with schools observing the holiday since the mid-1900s, New York Post reported.
Jenifer Rajkumar, the first South Asian-American woman ever to be elected to a state office in New York, said, "The time has come to recognize over 200,000 New Yorkers of the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain faiths who celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights."
She called Anniversary Day "an obscure and antiquated day," as compared to Diwali, which is celebrated by a "growing number of New Yorkers," reported CNN.
"People have said that there's simply not enough room in the New York City school calendar to have a Diwali school holiday," the assembly woman said. "Well, my legislation makes the room."
Rajkumar further added that the new school schedule will still have 180 days, as is required by the state's education laws.
During the conference, Adams called the decision a "long overdue" acknowledgment of Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities, according to CNN.
"We are going to encourage children to learn about what is Diwali," Adams said. "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," he added.
"When we take this period to acknowledge Diwali, we're acknowledging the light that is within us, the light that clearly can push away darkness," the mayor said.