The City Council Feb. 16 voted to pass Councilwoman Linda Lee’s resolution to call upon the NYC Department of Education to establish Diwali as an official holiday for public school students.
“In recognition of the 1.1 million Asian American Pacific Islanders who call New York City home, it is my honor and privilege to pass Resolution 164 to require New York City Schools to recognize Diwali as a holiday,” said Lee, vice co-chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus.
“We cannot fully appreciate the great diversity of culture and beauty of our city when one-fifth of our public school students are ultimately forced to make a painful choice between attending school and celebrating their traditions at home with family.”
Lee added that she hopes the resolution will allow children to partake in their celebrations in ways that previous generations of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean New Yorkers could not.
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is a significant five-day festival across South Asia that signifies the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil. There is a diversity of the many practices of Diwali amongst the South Asian community. Hindus in certain regions of India celebrate Diwali as the New Year, while Sikh Diwali coincides with Bandi Chhor Divas, the revered sixth Guru who was released from captivity. For Jains, Diwali marks the anniversary of the attainment of moksha or liberation, and Buddhists celebrate Diwali to commemorate the day King Ashok converted to Buddhism.
New York City has previously acknowledged the significance of Diwali by suspending alternate-side parking rules on Lakshmi Puja, the third day of the holiday.