BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater residents suggested at the April 14 board of education meeting that the Hindu religious holiday, Diwali, be added to the academic calendar as a day off for students.
“Bridgewater has a large Hindu community,” resident Rajesh Makhija said. “We want to know if one of the main days can be declared as a holiday.”
The residents said they were concerned about having to send their children to school on such an important holiday.
“This would be significant for our kids,” resident Vijay Gupta said. “They have to go to school on our biggest holiday.”
Board of education member Jeffrey Brookner said he didn’t know much about Diwali, but asked the residents to send emails to the board describing it.
“I was surprised that Jeffrey didn’t know what it was,” Gupta said. “School districts all over the country recognize Diwali as a holiday.”
According to the residents, the holiday is recognized by President Barack Obama at the White House.
“This is basically a new year to us,” resident Hiren Shah said. “We go to temple first thing in the morning. That’s how we grew up and we want to continue the same culture.”
Several school districts in New Jersey have recognized the holiday already, including Glen Rock, South Brunswick, Passaic and West Windsor, according to Makhija.
Diwali is a national festival celebrated by all those of Indian origin between October and November each year. It originated as an agricultural holiday that marked the last harvest of the year before winter.
“It’s like Christmas,” resident Vikas Aggarwal said. “Houses are lit in November.”
“We also exchange gifts,” resident Ajay Govani added.
The Diwali holiday lasts for five days, and the residents requested that the schools observe the final day.
“It’s easy to adjust the calendar year,” resident Sandesh Jajoo said. “One day is not much to ask.”
Board president Ann Marie Mead said the administration would definitely consider the request.
The board said that the 2015-2016 calendar was already approved last year so the earliest they could consider the request is for the 2016-2017 calendar.
The board is expected to discuss the request to add the holiday to the next district calendar in the upcoming weeks.