QUEENS, NY – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, announced today that she 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. Billions around the world celebrate Diwali, including the millions who commemorate the holiday in the United States.
“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,” said Congresswoman Meng.“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.”
Diwali represents the triumph of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. While the holiday holds a different significance for various cultural, ethnic and religious groups, the Festival of Lights is universally a time for celebration, reflection, prayer and gatherings with loved ones. Diwali will be celebrated later this year on November 12.
Under the Congresswoman’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.
“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,” said 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.”
“Throughout the year, I have worked with my colleagues in the New York State legislature to bring recognition to the AAPI community in New York, and I am grateful that Congresswoman Meng is leading this fight on the federal level,” said Assemblymember Grace Lee (D-NY), Co-Chair of the New York Assembly’s Asian Pacific American (APA) Task Force. “Diwali is one of the largest and most important events in South Asian culture, and making it a federal holiday will empower the millions of Americans who celebrate it every year. I am proud to support this effort and look forward to continuing to work with Congresswoman Meng to make AAPI voices heard.”
“As a scholar working with minoritized religious communities, federal recognition of holidays is important,” said Dr. Natasha Raheja, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. “Every year, Diwali falls on a new moon night and is often associated with the end of the harvest season. A federal holiday is fitting as new moon nights are customarily time for workers to rest and spend time with their families. A joyful festival, Diwali is celebrated in a rich variety of religious and cultural practices. Expanding federal holidays is a critical step in affirming religious diversity in the United States.”
“NCAPA applauds Congresswoman Meng for introducing the Diwali Day Act,” said Gregg Orton, Executive Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). “The official recognition of Diwali allows for the acknowledgment and celebration of individuals in the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist faiths. Our communities deserve to be seen and celebrated, and the passage of this act empowers several South Asian and Southeast Asian communities in practicing and embracing their religious heritage.”
“The recognition of Diwali as a federal holiday would be an affirmative step in celebrating/recognizing the diversity of our nation,” said John C. Yang, President and Executive Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC. “The traditions and cultural practices that immigrants and communities of color celebrate throughout the United States represent the rich tapestry of our nation. This bill, in conjunction with Representative Meng’s recent bill to recognize Lunar New Year as a federal holiday, is a move toward ensuring that the diversity of Asian American communities is included in our nation’s observances and narrative.”
“The recognition of Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas is pivotal to enriching the cultural fabric of the United States and fostering greater understanding and appreciation for the rich South Asian diaspora,” said Sim J Singh Attariwala, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager of The Sikh Coalition.“By embracing these celebrations, we not only include and integrate communities but also strengthen the bonds of our multicultural society, making America a more vibrant and compassionate nation for all.”
“Today is a milestone that demonstrates our visibility, our contributions, and the progress we are making in the United States with the Diwali Day Act,” said Richard David, Board Member at the Indo-Caribbean Alliance. “We commend Rep. Meng for this legislation that is important to Diwali-observing communities from the Caribbean to Asia. This is bright day for all Americans.”
“The Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) congratulates Representative Grace Meng for introducing this bill and fully supports her efforts to recognize Diwali as a federal holiday,” said Nikunj Trivedi, President of the Coalition of Hindus of North America. “This joyous festival is celebrated by millions of Americans and symbolizes the victory of good over evil and of light over darkness and brings together people from all backgrounds to cherish goodness, well-being, peace and prosperity – things that everyone can value and benefit from. Diwali enriches the cultural tapestry of our great nation and inspires us to pursue the best that life has to offer.”
“As Hindu Americans, we are so glad to see a bill to honor the multitude of celebrations that take place across the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, and beyond on Diwali,” said Ria Chakrabarty, Policy Director for Hindus for Human Rights. “During this auspicious festival, Hindus convene friends and families, celebrate the victory of justice over injustice, and retell the beloved stories of Rama and Sita, Krishna and Satyabhama, Kali, and other divine figures. If Diwali becomes a federal holiday, we can share this holiday with a larger part of our community.”
“It is high time to recognize Diwali as a holiday in U.S. public schools,” said Dr. Neeta Jain, Founder and President of the International Ahimsa Foundation. “Our children should be treated equally. As our children celebrate other’s cultures, others should celebrate and learn about our culture as well. This is the only way we can teach children to have mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual acceptance.”
Endorsing organizations include Indian Diaspora Council, Sikh Coalition, International Commission on Dalit Rights, Indo-Caribbean Alliance, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates, Asian American Federation (AAF), National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), The Sikh Cultural Society, Hindu Temple Society of North America, Hindus for Human Rights, Coalition of Hindus of North America and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC.