City Council votes to designate Lunar New Year as an official school holiday (again) in New York City

lunar new year
The Lunar New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival was held at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in Chinatown on Feb. 1.
Photo by Adrian Childress

The City Council voted Thursday on a resolution to adopt Lunar New Year as an official annual school holiday in New York City. 

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio had previously designated Lunar New Year a public school holiday in 2015. But this year, the New York City Department of Education did not designate Lunar New Year, which fell on Sunday, Jan. 22, this year, as a school holiday. Not even a Monday observance was recognized.

“Lunar New Year is one of the most important annual celebrations for our Asian communities,” Councilmember Chris Marte said. “Unfortunately, while Lunar New Year is recognized as a city holiday, the DOE has not allowed students to have a day off when the first day of the new year falls on a weekend. This caused a lot of confusion for students, and kept them from fully celebrating with their families.”

amNewYork Metro has reached out to the Department of Education for comment, and is awaiting a response. 

Wayne Ho, the president of Chinese-American Planning Council, which serves 280,000 New Yorkers, said the community was disappointed with the omission of the Lunar New Year from the city holiday calendar. 

“Many in the community, including community members were disappointed and angry at the mayoral office and DOE for not recognizing Lunar New Year as a holiday and letting students off on Monday,” Ho said. “It’s repeating the sins of the past where students are getting pulled out of school and employees need to take time off to celebrate one of the most important holidays.”

Marte described the weeks of Lunar New Year celebration that falls within his district: parades, lion dances, firework viewings, and street fairs. Confetti lines every block and you can buy oranges on every corner. He noted the high numbers of supporters from the Chinatown, Flushing, and Sunset Park neighborhoods who testified at a community hearing on the resolution last month.

“The pandemic and rise in anti-Asian hate crimes led to families staying inside,” Marte said. “But this year, Chinatown came out in full force, proving the resiliency and strength of this immigrant community.”

Asians comprise 17% of New York City’s population, or roughly 1.5 million people. The Lunar New Year, which celebrates the beginning of the new year with its first moon cycle, is honored by billions of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Tibetan people across Asia and around the world.

“Too often, decision makers and policymakers always play this game that if they do it for one group they have to do it for all groups,” Ho said. “There are so many holidays that DOE recognizes like, Chancellor’s Day. If they were concerned about the 180 days of instruction, they could have taken away some of the other holidays in late June with these random holidays.” 

The City Council also adopted Councilmember Sandra Ung’s resolution on Feb. 2 urging Congress to designate Lunar New Year as a federally recognized holiday. Ung said the designation would recognize the Asian American community, the fastest growing demographic in the nation.

“Lunar New Year is an extremely important holiday in New York City,” Marte said. “It’s long overdue that our city recognizes this as an official holiday and that our Department of Education makes this an official school holiday as well.”