Indians Seek Diwali Holiday in US Schools
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Indian parents and students in various states and school districts of the United States are urging officials to declare a holiday on the occasion of the Diwali festival. A group of residents in the Coppell Independent School District has launched a petition seeking signatures to ask for the declaration of Diwali, which falls on Oct. 19 this year, as an official holiday.
The online petition has so far received over 1,300 signatures.
“Asian students account for 43.88 per cent of total students in Coppell ISD — South Asian, Indian, and Hindu making up a large majority (although the exact number of Hindus is not made available by any US Census, as religion is not a demographic criterion for the process). When Diwali comes around each year, often times on a weekday, too many students are faced with a difficult decision — observe this religious holiday and risk missing important school work and activities, or forego their observance altogether because the curricular cost is simply too much,” the petition states.
“Even if a child wishes to observe the holiday, their families, known to emphasize education as a top priority, hesitate. At best, too many families squeeze in a rushed celebration — fit in between the end of after-school activities, homework, studying, and bedtime,” it adds.
Diwali is Official Holiday in Many School Districts
Diwali is declared a holiday for students in many school districts in the United States, including East Meadow School District, East Williston Union Free School District, Half Hollow Hills Central School District, Herricks Union Free School District, Hicksville Union Free School District and Syosset Central School District.
The decision taken by these school districts to observe a holiday on the festival was welcomed by Hindus in the United States.
Hindus in many other areas, such as Tennessee, Washington and Pennsylvania, have also been asking for a holiday to be declared on the festival.
Diwali: A Huge Festival in the United States
The then President of the United States, George W Bush, started Diwali celebrations in the White House in 2003. Later, Barack Obama too followed the path of his predecessor when it came to Diwali celebrations.
In 2009, Obama lit a traditional lamp in the East Room of the White House on the festive occasion. A year later, his wife Michelle Obama delivered a warm speech on the night of Diwali.
“This holiday is celebrated by members of some of the world’s oldest religions not just here in America but across the globe. Diwali is a time for celebration… As Barack and I learned during our visit to India, it’s a time to come together with friends and family, often with dancing and good food,” she said.
White House employees also took part in Diwali celebrations, including lighting of Diya.
The festival is celebrated in its full splendor at South Street Sea Port, New York. Hosted by The Association of Indians in America, NY Chapter, Diwali celebration here attracts about 100,000 people from all over the country.
The event is a full-day extravaganza, which celebrates the tradition, culture, and oneness of the community, ending with a live grand display of fireworks illuminating the New York City skyline.
On Oct. 05 last year, the United States Postal Service issued its first Diwali stamp, which became one of the best-selling stamps in the country.
The United Nations also celebrates Diwali every year, after it was recognized in 2014. The occasion is now an optional holiday at the UN, and a ‘Happy Diwali’ message is displayed on the New York building of the organization on this day.