Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has agreed to co-sponsor a piece of legislation to make the observation of Diwali a national holiday in the United States, saying that it is a critical holiday that can allow Americans to “celebrate…the triumph of light over darkness” amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.
The legislation, introduced in the House by New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, would make Diwali the 12th federal holiday recognized by the United States.
“The celebration of the triumph of light over darkness is especially important during this pandemic,” Krishnamoorthi said on social media.
According to Maloney’s website, she previously proposed legislation that led the US Postal Service to produce a commemorative stamp honoring Diwali, with the stamp going into circulation in 2016.
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“Celebrations like Diwali speak to the core of what we all desire for our nation to be a beacon of happiness, healing, learning and light in uncertain times,” she told reporters of the new bill. “My colleagues, Indian-American community leaders and I believe that there is no better time to enshrine Diwali as a federal holiday than in the wake of this terrible dark pandemic.”
Currently there are 11 recognized federal holidays, with the latest holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day, being added to the calendar in 2021.
According to federal law, holidays designated by Congress apply to federal institutions and the District of Columbia. Banks, schools and select companies typically observe federal holidays, but are not required by law to do so.
Earlier this week, Krishnamoorthi also introduced a resolution “recognizing the religious and historical significance” of the festival.
Diwali will be commemorated on Nov. 4.
“I want to wish a safe and happy Diwali to all the families gathering with loved ones to light lamps in their homes, and to pray for good health and peace for all people,” he said.
According to Krishnamoorthi’s resolution, Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is a “time for thanksgiving and prayer for health, knowledge and peace.” The festival is observed annually by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others throughout the United States, including those in the Indian-American community.
During the festival, adherents light oil lamps and place them around their homes, praying for health, knowledge and peace.
In India, where the holiday originated, and other parts of the world, the festival lasts for five days, and takes place at the end of the last month of the Hindu lunar calendar.
Numerous countries, including India, Fiji, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore, observe Diwali as a national holiday.