New York State Assembly set to pass legislation making Lunar New Year and Diwali as State holidays
Democratic US Congresswoman Grace Meng, First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus has introduced the Diwali Day Act, a bill to make Diwali a federal holiday.
Diwali, also known as Deepavali or the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important holidays for many in the South Asian, Southeast Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities, as well as many religious groups including Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, she noted in a statement last week.
Read: Pennsylvania declares Diwali as official holiday (April 28, 2023)
Billions around the world celebrate Diwali, including the millions who commemorate the holiday in the United States, Meng noted.
“Diwali is one of the most important days of the year for billions of people across the globe, and for countless families and communities in Queens, New York, and the United States,” she stated.
“Diwali celebrations are a wonderful time here in Queens, and each year it is easy to see just how important this day is to so many people. America’s strength is derived from the diverse experiences, cultures and communities that make up this nation.
“My Diwali Day Act is one step toward educating all Americans on the importance of this day, and celebrating the full face of American diversity. I look forward to shepherding this bill through Congress,” Meng stated.
Under Meng’s legislation, Diwali would become the 12th federally recognized holiday in the United States. Establishing a federal holiday for Diwali, and the day off it would provide, would allow families and friends to celebrate together, and demonstrate that the government values the diverse cultural makeup of the nation,
Meng has also pushed to make Diwali a school holiday in her hometown of New York City, and she continues to advocate for state and local recognition of Diwali, along with Lunar New Year and Eid.
Read: Diwali to be public school holiday in New York City (October 21, 2022)
A copy of her bill can be viewed here.
“After making history as the first Indian-American woman elected to New York State office, I was proud to lead the movement for Diwali to be a school holiday in New York City,” stated Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-NY).
“This year, we saw our entire state speak with one voice in support of recognizing Diwali and the South Asian community. My extraordinary partner in government Congresswoman Meng is now taking the movement national with her historic legislation to make Diwali a federal holiday. Together, we are showing that Diwali is an American holiday. To the over 4 million Americans who celebrate Diwali, your government sees you and hears you.”
“Deepavali is a special holiday for so many South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities,” said Councilman Shekar Krishnan (D-NY).
“As the first Indian American ever elected to NYC government, I am so proud to support Congresswoman Meng’s legislation to establish ‘Deepavali’ as a Federal Holiday. It is crucial that children like my own are able to officially celebrate our holidays with their families, in a way that I was not able to growing up.”
“I applaud Congresswoman Meng for her continued work to increase the visibility of the Asian-American community,” said State Senator Jeremy Cooney (D-NY).
“Naming Diwali a federal holiday not only honors those who observe, but highlights a cultural tradition some Americans do not experience regularly. I was proud to attend the White House’s first Diwali celebration last fall, and fully support this legislation to continue the federal government’s work to uplift AAPI voices and designate Diwali as a federal holiday.”
Meanwhile, New York State Assembly speaker Carl Heastie has announced the assembly’s intention to pass legislation to observe Lunar New Year and Diwali as holidays in New York State.
“It is important to recognize New York’s rich and diverse culture,” he stated May 24. “Therefore, it is the intention of the Assembly to pass legislation to observe Lunar New Year and Diwali as holidays in New York State before the close of our legislative session.”
“We will continue discussions with stakeholders as to how this affects the school year calendar,” he added.