While I was driving home with The Daughter and one of her friends on an early November evening, the friend pointed to a house lit with Christmas lights. “Isn’t it early for Christmas lights?” she asked. “Not for Christmas,” I replied. “For Diwali.”
Living in Silicon Valley for the past twenty-five years, I have noticed that the local Indian American population has been celebrating the festival of Diwali more and more visibly. Now, there is a push in some of the more heavily Indian school districts to make Diwali an official holiday.
Diwali is five day festival important to followers of Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism, although celebrated for different reasons. It occurs between mid-October and mid-November. “This is our Christmas,” said Raj Bhanot, a co-founder of the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple. “We want to experience our holiday at home with our families.” Indians make up 15% of the population in Sunnyvale.
Adding another holiday to a school calendar can be a headache, and some question the fairness of adding another holiday. Some Muslim and Jewish parents take their children out of school for their respective religious holidays without schools shutting down. Should the end of Ramadan and Tet be holidays too?
“Other communities have an equal right to ask for their holidays off, too,” Bhanot said. Diwali as a school holiday in the US is not unknown. The school district in Passaic New Jersey has Diwali as a holiday, along with Rosh Hashanah and Three Kings Day, while the South Brunswick School district in New Jersey takes Diwali as a holiday along with Eid al-Fitr.
[Flickr photo Credit: San Sharma]