Pennsylvania declares Diwali an official State holiday

Pennsylvania State Senator Nikil Saval. PHOTO: Twitter @SenatorSaval
Pennsylvania State Senator Nikil Saval post on Twitter regarding Diwali, April 26, 2023. PHOTO: Twitter @SenatorSaval

On April 26, 2023, Pennsylvania became the first State in the United States to designate Diwali, the festival of lights, a State holiday.

Both the State Senate and House passed Bills approving the holiday. While the Senate Bill 402, does not warrant closing of schools or government, the House Bill 436, which passed 200-1, would recognize the “15th day of the Hindu lunisolar month of Kartik as ‘Diwali Day’ in Pennsylvania.” This year Diwali will be celebrated on November 12.

After the Bill was passed, Indian-American State Senator Nikil Saval, who introduced the Bill in February 2023 along with Senator Greg Rothman said, “Our Commonwealth’s official recognition of Diwali sends a clear message of inclusion to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who celebrate this festival of light and connection each year: you are seen, you are welcome, you matter.”

“I’m grateful to my colleague, Senator Rothman, for initiating this bill on behalf of his constituents, and on behalf of all of Pennsylvania’s nearly 200,000 South Asian residents. It is fitting that this time for reflection on the endless struggle of light over darkness be extended statewide,” added Saval.

“Thousands of Pennsylvanians celebrate Diwali each year, including many residents of the 34th  Senatorial District,” Rothman said. “Recognizing Diwali as an official State holiday upholds and celebrates our Commonwealth’s rich cultural diversity.”

When asked about Pennsylvania’s decision, Indian-American Congressman Shri Thanedar (D-Michigan) told News India Times, “Indian-Americans have contributed significantly in America. America’s greatness is because of our diversity and blending of cultures which makes us a better country. I thank the PA lawmakers for celebrating Indian-Americans by declaring Diwali as a State holiday.”

Indian-American State Representative Arvind Venkat while introducing the Bill on the House floor, asserted, “For the thousands of South Asians in Pennsylvania, recognition of Diwali by our State Government is truly a marker of our integration into the fabric of Pennsylvania. As an Indian-American legislator and the only one in our State House, it truly is a privilege to bring this Bill before the Committee to have this recognition by the Commonwealth,” while thanking fellow Representatives Sheryl Delozier, Tim Brennan, Patty Kim for sponsoring the Bill along with him, bipartisan support in the House, and Senators Rothman and Saval for their work.

“This legislation is important in that it reflects the increased diversity of Pennsylvania,” Venkat said in a statement after the vote. “Our State holidays should reflect the vibrancy of the many cultures that call this State home, and this Bill is getting us closer to that goal.”

Venkat added, “I am fortunate to have a significant Hindu and South Asian community in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, and the House’s passage of this Bill by an overwhelming majority lets them and others in the South Asian community statewide know that their voices and traditions matter to us…”

On March 7, 2023, a memorandum, by Venkat along with his colleagues, designating Diwali as a State holiday stated, “Pennsylvanians of South Asian descent and all who celebrate Diwali deserve to have this vibrant holiday recognized. For this reason, we plan on introducing legislation that will designate Diwali as a State holiday.”

“Diwali, observed by over one billion people worldwide, is an important holiday for Hindus and celebrated in India, other areas of South Asia, and by the South Asian diaspora,” the memorandum said. “It is a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. This festival of lights features prayers, feasts, fireworks, family gatherings, and charitable giving…”

A memorandum, on January 10, 2023, by Saval and Rothman noted, “Known as the “festival of lights,” Diwali is a time of renewal for over 6 million Americans. The five-day festival of Indian origin marks a time of celebration and deep cultural significance for those who take part,” adding “Pennsylvanians of South Asian descent and all who celebrate deserve to have their holiday recognized…”

Crediting Saval and Rothman, State Senator Maria Collett tweeted, “The 12th District is home to a large and vibrant Hindu community, and I’m thrilled Diwali is finally on its way to being formally recognized. Thanks to @SenatorSaval and Senator Rothman for spearheading this bill!”



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