Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation during a Tuesday evening ceremony that made Diwali a school holiday for city public schools.
The law mandates all city public schools close on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Indian calendar each year, also known as Diwali.
"I signed this legislation with a clear vision in mind, a vision of children feeling empowered to share their heritage on the playground with others and ask curious questions about different families and their traditions and all of a sudden understand each other even more," Hochul said at the ceremony Tuesday.
Diwali, India's biggest and most important holiday of the year, is a festival of lights that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the human ability to overcome.
During Diwali, those who celebrate light lamps in streets and in houses to signify light overcoming darkness. Homes are decorated with rangoli, which are traditional works of Indian art. And families come together, go to temple, exchange gifts, donate to charity and have feasts.
"We can finally say to over 600,000 Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain Americans across New York City, 'We see you,'" Queens Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar said at the ceremony.
Rajkumar, the first South Asian American woman ever to be elected to state office, first introduced the legislation in 2021. It was passed by the New York state legislature in June of this year. Mayor Eric Adams, Rajkumar and other lawmakers celebrated the passage of the bill at City Hall later that month.
Adams pledged to made Diwali a school holiday when he ran for mayor in 2021.
The Associated Press reports that the population of city residents categorized as Asian Indian by the United States Census Bureau has more than doubled in the last three decades, from 94,000 in 1990 to about 213,000 in the 2021 American Community Survey.
More than 1 billion people around the world celebrate Diwali.