NYC public school students will get Diwali off starting 2023 school year

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Friday, October 21, 2022
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Diwali will be a New York City public school holiday starting in 2023. Darla Miles has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Diwali will be a New York City public school holiday starting next year in 2023.

Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks announced Thursday the school calendar was moved around to make room for the important holiday for many religions.

Officials eliminated "Anniversary Day" as a holiday, allowing the school system to add Diwali to the calendar while still meeting the required 180 days a year in school.

Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is one of the most significant holidays in India that traditionally spans five days.

The holiday signifies the triumph of light over dark and the return of Lord Rama after he defeated the demon King Ravana.

The holiday takes place on October 24 this year.

As the first South Asian elected to state office, Thursday was a day that Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar was presumably most proud of.

"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 said.

Representing those hundreds of thousands of families, Rajkumar announced new legislations that would make Diwali a school holiday.

"We've done this before, identifying holidays," Adams said. "We've done it with Eid, we've done it with Lunar New Years. We do it with so many other days and so many other cultures that we acknowledge."

The fight to make Diwali a school holiday has been 10 years in the making.

For Mohamed Q. Amin with the Caribbean Equality Project, Thursday's announcement doesn't cut it.

"The mayor came to our community and promised us, virtually and within our communities that he was going to make Diwali, when he takes office," Amin said.

Amin and advocates hoped that Adams would make an executive order to convert a snow day for the sacred festival of lights. Now he's concerned state legislation could drag out much longer.

"Our message to the mayor will always be, make Diwali a holiday," Amin said. "We don't want it to be next year, we don't want it to be two years from now. We want it now."

While a petition by students on Change.org has nearly 5,000 signatures to make Diwali a school holiday, the mayor's office said state law has to be changed first.

"When we take this period to acknowledge Diwali, we are acknowledging the light that is within us," Adams said.

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