Legislation has been reintroduced to establish another federal holiday for Diwali which is the celebration of the Hindu new year.
The actual date of Diwali varies. In 2021, it fell on November 4, and in 2022, it was on October 24. This year, the date will be November 12, 2023.
There was no press release on the bill that I could find, but in looking through Meng’s website, she has supported Diwali before and expanding holidays for cultural minorities in general in the past.
In 2016, she issued a statement praising the Postal Service for issuing a Diwali stamp:
I’m thrilled that Diwali will finally be recognized for the important role it plays in the fabric of our nation. Also known as the Festival of Lights, it is a special time for family and friends to come together, and to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists throughout the United States and across the world. The issuance of this stamp is the result of almost ten years of community activism and advocacy, and I thank everyone who has worked to make this possible – including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney who has led the Congressional effort for many years.
In 2015, she issued a statement praising then-New York City mayor Bill de Blasio for adding the Muslim Eid holidays to New York City’s school holiday schedule:
I applaud Mayor de Blasio for moving forward with his plan to create school holidays for Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, and for his continued commitment to do the same for Lunar New Year. Adding these holidays to the school calendar reflect and recognize the rich and vibrant diversity that exists in our great city. I also renew my call to make Diwali a school holiday as well, and I hope that will happen soon. The time has come for our school system to recognize all these important holidays, just as it rightly does for holidays of other cultures and ethnicities.
Meng also has been pushing legislation to make the Lunar New Year a federal holiday. She introduced bills in 2022 and in 2023 to create a holiday for it. This is a holiday celebrated predominantly in Asian countries.
What is Diwali?
According to WFTV, 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. WFTV further notes, “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 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.
How Many Hindus Live in the United States?
According to World Population Review, there are 2.51 million Hindus in the United States. It states, “The United States has the seventh-largest Hindu population in the world of 2.51 million, comprising 0.7% of its total population. Roughly 90% of American Hindus are immigrants and the children of immigrants, with the remaining 10% being converts.”
By way of comparison, about 63% of the U.S. population identified as Christian as of 2021 according to Pew Research Center. That is out of a total population of roughly 332 million people.
In other words, Hindus comprise roughly 0.76% of the U.S. population.
Other Proposed Federal Holidays
If it seems like the list of proposed federal holidays coming out of Congress has gotten quite long, it is because it has. These are some of the legislative proposals from the last few years.
Another one of Meng’s bills would establish a federal holiday for Lunar New Year, a holiday celebrated primarily in Asian countries.
One bill would make Workers’ Memorial Day a federal holiday in April. This would be set aside to honor employees killed on the job.
Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) proposed making St. Patrick’s Day a 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.
“Rosa Parks Day” was the proposed name of a federal holiday introduced most recently by Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL). It was also introduced in 2021 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.
The Gold Star Families Day Act was proposed to create an annual federal holiday on the last Monday in September to honor the families of those who lost their lives in the Armed Forces.
“Harriet Tubman Day” was proposed to establish a federal holiday in honor of, you guessed it, Harriet Tubman.
It has also been proposed 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.
One federal holiday which was proposed and actually came to fruition was the new Juneteenth federal holiday.
Collectively, if the various legislative proposals to expand the list of federal holidays were to become law at some point, federal employees could have as many as 19 paid holidays in a typical year.
When the government creates a federal holiday, it becomes a day given as a paid holiday to federal employees under current 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.”