On February 8th 2016, all NYC students had a day off from school to celebrate the longest and most important holiday in Chinese culture: Lunar New Year, more commonly known as Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is celebrated to honor ancestors and to bring families together to feast.
2016 is the first year that the day was recognized as a school holiday. In the past decade, city, state, and federal officials and community groups had been fighting for Chinese New Year to be added as a school holiday in NYC where one in six of the 1.1 million students are Asian. “Under the prior city (Bloomberg) administration, there was a real lack of willingness to consider this issue,” State Senator Daniel Squadron, a supporter of a legislation in 2009 to recognize Chinese New Year as a school holiday, told NBC News.
Adding the holiday to the school calendar was not easy and required months of analysis. There had to be at least 180 days of school for students with the added holiday and other new school holidays, like Eid. Snow days also had to be considered.
In 2013, Mayor de Blasio promised to close schools for the first day of Chinese New Year in his campaign. As mayor, he has control over the city’s school system. However, he was accused of not keeping his promise after he made two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, official school holidays but not Chinese New Year.
The mayor was sent an open letter from more than 40 elected officials, advocacy groups, and community leaders to fulfill his promise and add Chinese New Year into the 2015-2016 school calendar. With their pressure and the state’s approval, on June 22, 2015, Mayor de Blasio announced through Twitter that Chinese New Year would be made a public school holiday. This allowed Asian families to celebrate this major holiday without having their children miss school.
“I appreciate the day off, since Chinese New Year is a holiday sacred to my family and me. Being allowed to stay home from school helps us further enjoy our holiday,” Christie Wu ’20 explained. As someone who doesn’t normally celebrate Chinese New Year, Bianca Vama ’20 commented, “I know many people who celebrate Chinese New Year and it is a good thing they get a day off to celebrate their traditions. I also like having a day off.”