Declaring Diwali a School Holiday in North Caldwell
Declaring Diwali a School Holiday in North Caldwell
Why this petition matters
Declaring Diwali A School Holiday In North Caldwell
by Dr. Deepali A. Shah
We, the author and supporters of this petition, have started this campaign to help raise awareness of Diwali, and to ask the Mayor, the Borough Council and the North Caldwell Board of Education to declare Diwali as an official holiday for our community and our public schools.
Diwali is the festival of lights, signifying the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. On this day, millions of people from all over the world light lamps called diyas around their homes reminding themselves to be that ‘light’ unto the world - to continue to spread positivity to everyone around them. It’s a day when many families get together and pray for the inner wealth of virtue so that they can continue to live a righteous life and serve society to the best of their abilities. Diwali is a 5 day holiday with different religious and cultural ceremonies on each day with slight variations on when the religious ceremonies take place depending on which part of India someone is from or based on the various sects of the religion.
Indian-Americans/South-Asian Americans represent a significant portion of our town’s population with over 73 families with elementary-age children. Currently,15% of students (about 100 of the 685 total students) in the North Caldwell School system are of South Asian Descent (Hindus, Jains, Bhuddhists, and Sikhs) and celebrate Diwali annually.
Diwali is celebrated and considered an official holiday in many countries around the world including the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, and the United States. The White House has been celebrating Diwali for nearly a decade -- a tradition that was started by President George W. Bush and continued to this day by every president after. In 2016, Diwali was commemorated for the first time at the United Nations in NYC. The United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a first-ever Diwali postage stamp on October 5, 2016. It’s since become one of the best-selling stamps in the history of USPS. Canada issued another stamp on Sept 30, 2017.
Many school districts across the country and New Jersey (listed below) already give a day off for Diwali. Additionally, New York City Public School system has also incorporated Diwali as a public-school holiday in their school calendar for 2023. Based on the Hindu lunar calendar, Diwali falls on a different day each year. It is on Oct 24th this year (2022) and on Nov 12th (in 2023).
The New Jersey State Board of Education in its yearly resolution has been approving Diwali as an approved religious, excused absence from school. However, when Diwali comes around each year, often times on a weekday, many of us are conflicted -- observe this religious holiday with our family and risk missing important school-work; or, forego their observance altogether because the academic and curriculum lost is simply too much. Therefore, all too often, families squeeze in a rushed celebration that must fit in between the end of after-school activities, homework, studying, and bedtime. This minimizes the time families can spend in prayer services and cultural activities that truly reflect the significance of Diwali.
Our community supports the recognition of Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, so we feel it would be appropriate at this time for our community to recognize Diwali as it is celebrated by a significant portion of our town. We respectfully request that the North Caldwell School Board take the lead in embracing and recognizing the culture of many of its students with the Mayor and Borough Council supporting the decision. Closing schools on Diwali would show how respectful and accommodating the community is to the South Asian community, our culture and faith. It would give our children a sense of belonging. We strongly believe that such a designation by the Borough of North Caldwell will go a long way in demonstrating the commitment of our educators to the well-being of our diverse students and families.
We, humbly request you to please sign this petition in support of making Diwali an official holiday for the North Caldwell public schools. We thank you in advance for your due consideration.
Students and Parents of North Caldwell
A list of New Jersey school districts that have a full day off to observe Diwali as of November 1, 2022 (as well as three schools with a shortened schedule)
2. Bridgewater-Raritan Regional
3. Cherry Hill
5. East Brunswick
7. Fair Lawn
8. Glen Rock
10. Hopewell Valley Regional
16. North Brunswick
18. Parsippany-Troy Hills
22. South Brunswick
23. West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Districts
26. Colts Neck (shortened schedule)
27. Englewood Cliffs (shortened schedule)
28. West Long Branch (shortened schedule)
Dates of Diwali in upcoming years:
1. Five Days: 11/10/23-11/15/23 Main Diwali Day:Sunday, Nov 12, 2023
2. Five Days: 10/29/24-11/2/24 Main Diwali Day: Friday, November 1, 2024
3. Five Days: 10/18/25-10/22/25 Main Diwali Day: Tuesday October 21, 2025
4. Five Days:11/6/26-11/10/26 Main Diwali Day: Sunday November 8, 2026
5. Five Days: 10/26/27-10/30/27 Main Diwali Day: Friday October 29, 2027