Bill Would Give Federal Employees a Paid Holiday to Celebrate Diwali

Another federal holiday has been proposed in Congress to celebrate the Hindu new year. Could federal employees get another paid holiday?

Another proposed federal holiday can be added to this year’s growing list: legislation has been introduced in Congress to make Diwali, the celebration of the Hindu new year, a new federal holiday.

The Deepavali Day Act (H.R. 5904) was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). It would make Diwali a nationally recognized federal holiday.

The actual date of the event varies. In 2021, the date for Diwali falls on November 4. Next year, it will be October 24, 2022, and the following year, the date will be November 12, 2023.

“I want to start by wishing a Happy Diwali to all those celebrating around the world this week as the time of reflection and renewal that marks the Hindu New Year comes to a close,” Maloney said in a statement about the bill. “This beautiful festival celebrates lightness over dark, goodness over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. My bill today recognizes the importance of this beautiful holiday and gives it the respect and acknowledgement it deserves.”

The bill has 26 co-sponsors as of the time of this writing. One of the co-sponsors, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), said in a statement, “I’m proud to join Chairwoman Maloney and our colleagues in introducing this legislation to establish Diwali as a federal holiday in recognition of its importance to our nation’s more than three million Americans of Indian descent, including Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. The meaning of this legislation extends beyond honoring the significance of Diwali to the Indian-American community to acknowledging the contributions of Indian-Americans to our nation.”

What is Diwali?

According to Fox23.com, Diwali is a five day festival that celebrates the Hindu new year:

Most people are celebrating the legend of the return of the Hindu god Rama and his wife, Sita, to their northern India kingdom of Ayodhya. The legend says Rama and Sita were exiled for 14 years after the defeat of the demon king Rayanna. Some honor Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, during Diwali.

It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. “In Jainism, it marks the spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira. For Sikhs, it marks the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru, was freed from imprisonment,” according to Fox23.com.

According to The Hindustan Times:

Diwali is the festival of lights which signifies the victory of good over evil and the eradication of dark shadows, negativity, and doubts from our lives. It is a celebration of prosperity in which people give gifts to their loved ones. The festival also sends the message of illuminating our inner selves with clarity and positivity.

Other Proposed Federal Holidays

Other holidays that have been proposed recently include election day, September 11, and honoring Rosa Parks. One which was proposed and actually became law this year was the new Juneteenth federal holiday.

Legislation introduced to set up federal rules for elections proposed making election day a new federal holiday. The idea is that it would encourage more people to get out and vote in elections.

Individual bills have been proposed to make election day a holiday as well with the same general intent. For instance, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the Election Day Holiday Act (H.R. 222) earlier this year which would make election day a federal holiday. As she said in a press release issued at the time:

People should not be forced to choose between their job or family in order to exercise their right to vote. As we see communities nationwide disenfranchised by voter suppression tactics, it’s more important than ever that we reaffirm our commitment to the right to vote and ensure every voice is heard. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and Congress must make it easier to vote, not harder.

“Rosa Parks Day” was the proposed name of a federal holiday floated in a bill introduced in August by Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN). The purpose of this holiday would be to honor Rosa Parks, known in history as a woman who refused to give up a bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama.

More recently, legislation was introduced to make September 11 a federal holiday. This would be in remembrance of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Paid Holidays for Federal Employees

Any proposed holiday which becomes a new federal holiday becomes a new paid holiday for federal employees by law.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) states, “Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes the public holidays listed in these pages for Federal employees.”

Federal employees currently receive as many as 11 days off of work, with pay, as holidays. Occasionally, an additional day is added by the president for Christmas Eve.

Once every four years, federal employees in the Washington, DC area also get a holiday for inauguration day. That took place this year for the inauguration of Joe Biden as president. Regarding this holiday, OPM notes:

This holiday is designated as “Inauguration Day” in section 6103(c) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Federal employees in the Washington, DC, area are entitled to a holiday on the day a President is inaugurated on January 20th for each fourth year after 1965.

Current Federal Holidays

With the addition of the Juneteenth holiday which was signed into law by President Biden in June, federal employees now have eleven standard paid holidays in a year. This is the current list of federal holidays for the federal workforce according to OPM:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Juneteenth
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

This list does not include exceptions such as Inauguration Day or unexpected holidays such as an extra day off for Christmas Eve.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.