A bill has been introduced in the US Congress by Congresswoman Grace Meng, a prominent American lawmaker, to designate Diwali, the festival of lights, as a federal holiday. This initiative has received a positive reception from various communities nationwide.
During a virtual news conference in Washington, Congresswoman Grace Meng emphasised the significance of Diwali, stating that it holds immense importance for billions of people worldwide, as well as numerous families and communities in Queens, New York, and the United States. The bill, known as the Diwali Day Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives on Friday.
If the Diwali Day Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, it would establish Diwali as the 12th federally recognised holiday in the United States. Congresswoman Meng expressed that recognising Diwali as a federal holiday and providing a day off would enable families and friends to celebrate together. Furthermore, it would reflect the government’s acknowledgement of the diverse cultural fabric of the nation.
The Congresswoman highlighted the vibrant Diwali celebrations in Queens, emphasising the day’s significance for numerous individuals. She stated that America’s strength derives from the diverse experiences, cultures, and communities that constitute the nation.
Congresswoman Meng views her Diwali Day Act as a step towards educating all Americans about the importance of this day and embracing the full spectrum of American diversity. She looks forward to guiding the bill through Congress.
The announcement of the bill to declare Diwali as a federal holiday has garnered positive responses from various officials, including New York Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and New York State Senator Jeremy Cooney, who both expressed support for the initiative.
Assemblywoman Rajkumar welcomed the move, emphasising the unity displayed by the entire state in endorsing the recognition of Diwali and the South Asian community. She commended Congresswoman Meng for her significant efforts in making Diwali a federal holiday, emphasising that it demonstrates how Diwali has become an American holiday. She assured the over 4 million Americans who celebrate Diwali that their government acknowledges and listens to them.
Senator Cooney applauded Congresswoman Meng for her ongoing work in elevating the visibility of the Asian-American community. He highlighted that designating Diwali as a federal holiday not only pays tribute to those who observe it but also brings attention to a cultural tradition that some Americans may not regularly experience.
The introduction of the Diwali Day Act in the House of Representatives has garnered significant support and appreciation from various community members, highlighting the importance of Diwali for South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities.
New York City Councilman Shekar Krishnan emphasised the significance of Diwali as a special holiday for many South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities. As the first Indian American elected to the NYC government, he expressed his pride in supporting Congresswoman Meng’s legislation to establish ‘Deepawali’ as a federal holiday. He emphasised the importance of children being able to officially celebrate their holidays with their families, which he himself was unable to do during his upbringing.
Sim J Singh Attariwala, the Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager of The Sikh Coalition, stated that the recognition of Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas plays a pivotal role in enriching the cultural tapestry of the United States. It fosters greater understanding and appreciation for the vibrant South Asian diaspora.
Richard David, a Board Member at the Indo-Caribbean Alliance, described the introduction of the Diwali Day Act as a milestone that showcases visibility, contributions, and progress within the United States. Congratulating Congresswoman Meng, Nikunj Trivedi, the president of the Coalition of Hindus of North America, stated that Diwali is a joyous festival celebrated by millions of Americans.
He emphasised that it symbolises the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness, and brings people from diverse backgrounds together to celebrate goodness, well-being, peace, and prosperity—values that everyone can appreciate and benefit from.
Ria Chakrabarty, the Policy Director for Hindus for Human Rights, expressed joy and appreciation for the introduction of the bill that aims to honour the various celebrations that occur during Diwali across the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, and other regions. This recognition is significant for Hindu Americans.
Dr. Neeta Jain, the founder and president of the International Ahimsa Foundation, emphasised the importance of officially recognising Diwali as a holiday in U.S. public schools. She stated that it is high time to provide equal treatment to our children. Just as children celebrate other cultures, they should also have the opportunity to celebrate and learn about Hindu culture. Dr. Jain believes that this approach fosters mutual respect, understanding, and acceptance among children, promoting a more inclusive society.