The New York State Assembly plans to enact a legislation that recognises Diwali and the Lunar New Year as official federal holidays.
This development marks the culmination of persistent endeavours by legislators and members of the diaspora to establish these festivals as recognised holidays in the state.
In a statement released on Wednesday (24) Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie emphasised the significance of acknowledging New York’s vibrant and varied culture.
“Therefore, it is the intention of the Assembly to pass a 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 said.
The anticipated deadline for acting on the bills is June 8, coinciding with the conclusion of the legislative session.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, who represents New York’s 6th Congressional District encompassing parts of West, Central, and Northeast Queens, and serves as the First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, is scheduled to announce the legislation on Friday that aims to establish Diwali as a federal holiday.
According to a statement from her office, the proposed Diwali Day Act would designate Diwali as the 12th officially recognized holiday in the US.
“Establishing a federal holiday for Diwali, and the day off it would allow families and friends to celebrate together, and demonstrate that the government values the diverse cultural makeup of the nation,” it added.
Joining Congresswoman Meng for the announcement will be Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and State Senator Joe Addabbo, who serve as sponsors of the New York State bill advocating for the designation of Diwali as a school holiday in New York City.
Councilman Shekar Krishnan, the first Indian American member of the New York City Council, will also be present, along with Councilwoman Linda Lee, who recently succeeded in passing a resolution in the City Council endorsing a New York City school holiday for Diwali.
“I am thrilled to learn that the Assembly will vote on the legislation that seeks to observe Lunar New Year and Diwali as holidays in New York State. I was proud to champion these issues when I served in the State Legislature where I led the bill for Lunar New Year. I worked to make Lunar New Year a school holiday in New York City, and I have long called for the same to be done for Diwali,” she said.
Meng added that holidays should “recognise and reflect the great diversity of our communities, and I look forward to these bills moving through the State Assembly”.