U.S. President Donald Trump has celebrated the Hindu holiday of Diwali, known as the festival of lights, in a lamp-lighting ceremony in the Oval Office.
Indian-American members of the Trump administration, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, gathered with the president Tuesday as he read an official statement and lit the ceremonial oil lamp known as the diya.
In his statement, Trump said, “We especially remember the people of India, the home of the Hindu faith, who have built the world’s largest democracy.”
Speaking to Indian-Americans in the room and elsewhere, Trump said, “You have made extraordinary contributions to art, science, medicine, business and education.”
He continued, “America is especially thankful for its many Indian-American citizens who serve bravely in our armed forces and as first responders in communities throughout our great land.”
In celebrating the holiday, Trump said, “We reaffirm that Indian-Americans are truly cherished, treasured and beloved members of our great American family.”
Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted a Diwali greeting, saying, “May we all strive for peace, prosperity, and the triumph of light over darkness.”
Celebration of Diwali was started in the White House by President George W. Bush. President Barack Obama was the first president to light the diya at the White House celebration.
Diwali is held late in the year as a celebration of light over darkness and good over evil. Families and friends come together to celebrate with lamp-lighting, feasting, and holiday shopping. In some parts of India, it is considered the start of a new Hindu year.
Earlier this year, Trump broke a 20-year tradition in June by not hosting a celebration marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the White House. He did, however, release official statements for Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, a holiday celebrated to mark the end of the month of dawn-to-dusk prayer and fasting.
The Trump White House also broke a 16-year tradition, started by former President George W. Bush, in hosting a Cindo de Mayo celebration in May. This year, Pence hosted an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House. The holiday celebrates an 1862 victory by Mexico over France at the Battle of Puebla.