New York City public schools will now observe the Diwali holiday, Mayor Eric Adams announced at a news conference Thursday.
Diwali, also called the festival of lights, is typically celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, and will be commemorated starting the next academic year.
Adams made the announcement alongside Schools Chancellor David Banks and state Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, who spoke about her own ties to the holiday as an Indian American from Queens.
“It is long overdue to say to our Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist students and communities that we see you, we acknowledge you,” Adams said at the conference.
Diwali traditions typically include a five-day celebration at home and with large events. It involves the preparation and distribution of sweets, time celebrating with family, and the burning of lamps and sparklers to represent light driving out darkness.
Diwali’s date changes every year, and its observance can be in either October or November depending on the Indian calendar. This year, it falls on Oct. 24.
“We wanted to send a loud and clear message to the countless number of people who acknowledge this period of time of celebration,” Adams said. “I spent a lot of time in these communities. They are hardworking New Yorkers.”
Rajkumar, who introduced the original legislation pushing for the holiday’s recognition, said many South Asians before her have been told the city’s academic calendar simply had no room for Diwali.
“For over two decades, South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans in New York have been fighting for the Diwali school holiday,” she said. “I stand on the shoulders of those advocates.”
In making space for the holiday, Adams says he hopes non-South Asian students will start to learn about it too.
“When we acknowledge Diwali, we are going to encourage children to learn about what is Diwali,” he said.