Pennsylvania Declares Diwali a State Holiday to the Delight of 200,000 South Asian Residents of the Keystone State
- The two houses of the state legislature passed a bill sponsored by State Sens. Nikil Saval and Greg Rothman, and House Rep. Arvind Venkat, recognizing the festival of lights.
Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, is where it all began. Where America began. And Pennsylvania is where Diwali has been declared an official state holiday, setting the stage for the rest of the country to follow suit. Hopefully.
The Pennsylvania State Senate has passed a bill recognizing Diwali as an official holiday. The news was shared on April 26 by State Sen. House Bill 436 would designate the 15th day of the Hindu lunisolar month of Kartik as “Diwali Day” in Pennsylvania.
State Sen. Nikil Saval, along with his colleague Greg Rothman, introduced the legislation to make the festival of lights an official state holiday in the state in February this year. “The Senate voted unanimously to recognize Diwali as an official holiday,” Saval tweeted on April 26. “To all Pennsylvanians who celebrate this festival of light and connection: you are seen, you are welcome, you matter. He thanked Rothman for the opportunity to join you him introducing the bill.
In the state House, the bill was introduced by Rep. Arvind Venkat, the first Indian American representative in Pennsylvania state House history. “This legislation is important in that it reflects the increased diversity of Pennsylvania,” Venkat said in a statement. “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.”
Pittsburgh City Paper noted that the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have officially recognized Diwali for several years. Allegheny County has been home to a significant South Asian community since the 1970s. Data from India American Impact reveals that Pennsylvania is home to more than 600,000 Asian Americans, out of which Indian Americans make up the largest subgroup.
In the statement, Venkat noted that Diwali is observed “by more than one billion people worldwide and that Pennsylvania is home to nearly 200,000 South Asian residents, said Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, as well as other faiths including Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. He said the holiday is observed by more than one billion people worldwide and is important to Pennsylvania’s nearly 200,000 South Asian residents.
The bill passed the House on a 200 to 1 vote, with the lone dissent coming from state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton County.
From the White House to the iconic Times Square, the massive Diwali Mela in Edison, New Jersey, to the Diwali Dusshera fair in Sugar Land, Texas, Indian Americans are coming out in large numbers to celebrate. The festival has gained popularity commercially as well. More and more major brands are recognizing the festival by running ad campaigns and stocking products related to the holiday.
Last year, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that the state will celebrate Diwali, as a public holiday from 2023, as reported by CNBC.
This year, Diwali will be observed on November 12.