Diwali, the Hindu celebration known as the “Festival of Lights,” will be a public school holiday in New York City starting next year.
Mayor Eric Adams announced plans to include the holiday in the public school schedule at a press conference on Thursday morning, alongside state assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and Department of Education chancellor David Banks.
Legislators swapped out Anniversary Day, traditionally celebrated on the first Thursday in June, for Diwali in the public school calendar. Diwali is a major Hindu festival but is also celebrated by some Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. The date of Diwali fluctuates. This year, the five-day holiday will start on October 24.
“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,” Rajkumar, who introduced legislation to recognize Diwali, said in the press conference. She called Anniversary Day “an obscure and antiquated day,” as compared to Diwali, which is celebrated by a “growing number of New Yorkers.”
“People have said that there’s simply not enough room in the New York City school calendar to have a Diwali school holiday,” the assemblywoman said. “Well, my legislation makes the room.”
The new school schedule will still have 180 school days, as is required by the state’s education laws, Rajkumar added.
The assemblywoman also referenced lighthearted descriptions of Adams as “the Hindu mayor” because of his plant-based diet and meditation practice.
During the conference, Adams called the decision a “long overdue” acknowledgment of Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities.
“We are going to encourage children to learn about what is Diwali,” he 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.”
“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.