Diwali is set to officially become a New York City public school holiday, with Gov. Kathy Hochul expected to sign enabling legislation on Tuesday.
The bill signing is scheduled to take place at the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing, according to the office of Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, a Hindu legislator from Queens who fought for the holiday, which is also known as the South Asian festival of lights.
“For over two decades, the South Asian community has lobbied for the Diwali holiday,” Rajkumar said in remarks prepared ahead of the event. With the new law, she added, “we have lit an everlasting lamp in the hearts and minds of all New Yorkers.”
In addition to Hindus, who make up around 3% of the city’s population, the religious festival is observed by members of the Sikh and Jain faiths. Many adherents see the festival as the victory of good over evil and celebrate Diwali through worship, sharing sweets, fireworks and lighting oil lamps in their homes.
Diwali falls in October or November based on the lunar calendar. It now joins Lunar New Year, Eid and Juneteenth – ethnic and religious holidays added to the school calendar in recent years amid attempts to be more inclusive of the city’s diverse population.
“Adding Diwali to the school calendar will further reflect the rich and vibrant diversity that exists in our own city and how we should all embrace it and hopefully even pave the ways for other cities across the country as well,” said Mayor Eric Adams in June after the state Legislature approved a bill adding the holiday to the school calendar.
Queens Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, who is South Asian, said in an interview with Gothamist that he would boycott the bill signing out of protest of the governor’s strong stand in support of Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.
Mamdani said he is Muslim but has always celebrated Diwali due to the fact his mother, filmmaker Mira Nair, is originally from India and is a Hindu.
“It is impossible to celebrate this with a governor who has used her platform over this past month-and-a-half to support the Israeli government’s killing of more than 11,000 Palestinians, more than 4,000 of which are children,” Mamdani said.
Around 1,200 people in Israel were killed in attacks by Hamas militants on Oct. 7, according to a revised count by Israel’s foreign ministry. More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in retaliatory strikes by Israel in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.
There was no immediate comment from Hochul’s office.