US congresswoman introduces bill to make Diwali a national holiday

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Grace Meng, a Democrat from New York in the US House of Representatives, introduced a bill that, if passed, would make the Indian festival Diwali a federal holiday. The bill's introduction and announcement is made in May to coincide with Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) month, and has won the endorsement of a number of leading Hindus, Sikhs, Dalits, Indo -Caribbean and Pan-Asian professional and community organizations.

The bill, known as the Diwali Day Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 15 and has 14 co-sponsors, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Democrat of Washington State), Ro Khanna ( Democrat of California) and Shri Thanedar (Democrat of Michigan).

“Diwali is one of the most important days of the year for billions of people around the world, and for countless families and communities in Queens, New York and the United States. Meng explained. “Diwali celebrations are a wonderful time here in Queens, and every year it's easy to see how important this day is to so many people. America's strength comes from the diverse experiences, cultures and communities that make up this nation. My Diwali Day Act is a step toward educating all Americans about the importance of this day and celebrating America's diversity in full force. (MP Grace Meng)

Congresswoman Grace Meng holds a copy of the bill. At

Historically, the festival, also known as Dipawali (Deepavali) or Festival of Lights, celebrated the triumph of goodness over darkness and the light of wisdom over ignorance. The five-day festival, originating in the Indian subcontinent, has been celebrated by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs for millennia. Diwali takes place at the end of the harvest season, between mid-October and mid-November.

National Council of Asian and Pacific Americans (NCAPA) Executive Director Gregg Orton said, “The official recognition of Diwali allows for the recognition and celebration of individuals of Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist faiths. Our communities deserve to be seen and celebrated, and the passage of this law enables several communities in South Asia and Southeast Asia to practice and embrace their religious heritage. (MP Grace Meng)

Diwali celebrations usually include candles and other lights placed around houses. Fireworks are common and markets or fairs often expand to accommodate crowds of people. For Buddhists, it is a time to commemorate the conversion of Emperor Ashoka (r. 265-238 BCE) to Buddhism.

If the bill is approved by Congress and signed into law by the US President, the Diwali Day Act would make Diwali the 12th holiday recognized by the US government and the first holiday originating in Asia.

“As the first American Indian ever elected to government in New York, I am very proud to support Congresswoman Meng's legislation to establish Deepavali as a federal holiday. It's crucial that kids like mine can officially celebrate our holidays with their families in a way that I couldn't grow up,” Orton said. (Asian American News)

The bill would establish the first national holiday originating in Asia
Diwali in Times Square. At

Asian Americans Advancing Justice President John C. Yang welcomed the bill, “Recognizing Diwali as a federal holiday would be a positive step in celebrating/recognizing our nation's diversity. (Awaz the voice)

In New York State, a similar bill has been introduced. New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he expects the bill to pass in early June. This same bill would also designate the Lunar New Year as a state holiday.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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