New bill would make Lunar New Year a federal holiday
Introduced by Rep. Grace Meng, the legislation would make the day the 12th recognized federal holiday.
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U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, first vice chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, announced on Tuesday, Feb. 1, that she has introduced new legislation to create a federal holiday for Lunar New Year, as Asian-Americans across the country celebrated the Year of the Tiger.
Meng’s measure would make Lunar New Year a federally recognized holiday in the U.S, adding it to the list of 11 federal holidays that are currently recognized.
The count remained at 10 for almost four decades when Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was added to the list in 1983. This changed in June, when President Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
In addition to the legislation, Meng reintroduced a House resolution that would acknowledge the cultural and historical significance of Lunar New Year, as well as wish a happy and prosperous holiday to all who celebrate, and express respect for Asian-Americans and all individuals around the world who observe the holiday.
On Tuesday, Feb. 1, Meng also marked the anniversary of Lunar New Year becoming a school holiday in New York City, a public school holiday she had a hand in establishing. The Congresswoman first proposed closing NYC schools for the holiday when she was a member of the New York State Legislature in 2009.
“For Asian-Americans, Lunar New Year is an incredibly important, festive and deeply traditional holiday. It’s the most significant time of year for the Asian American community, and is celebrated in the U.S. and across the globe. It has also been observed for thousands of years,” Meng said in a statement.
Happy Lunar New Year! I wish everyone good fortune and happiness in this #YearOfTheTiger.— Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (@RepBourdeaux) February 1, 2022
I'm very pleased to support @RepGraceMeng's legislation to recognize #LunarNewYear as a federal holiday! pic.twitter.com/iesOkMPTlT
Lunar New Year, which is thought to date back to China’s Shang Dynasty in 14th Century B.C, is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year of the lunisolar calendar.
It is the most important holiday in China, and it is also celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Indonesia and other Asian countries. 2022 is the year of the Tiger which symbolizes a competitive nature, courage, and ambition.
Meng, who is Taiwanese-American and grew up in Queens, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that making Lunar New Year a federal holiday would send a powerful message of inclusion to Asian-Americans and non-Asians alike.
“It also sends just as an important message to those who aren’t Asian American to say, ‘Hey, this tradition and this culture is part of America,’” she said.
Meng said that increasing visibility of cultural traditions that are widely celebrated among the Asian diaspora could counterbalance the marginalization many Asians and Asian-Americans have experienced over the past two years.
“Part of this [bias] is due to the lack of education and understanding about this community that is still too often viewed as foreigners and not truly American. And what’s so beautiful about this country is that we can keep learning about other communities, whether they came here generations ago or just recently,” Meng told The Post.
The Lunar New Year Day Act, introduced in the House with 44 cosponsors, does not designate a specific date for the holiday, as it is tied to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar and falls on a different date each year, typically between late January and mid-February.
It's so important to recognize the cultural and historical significance of the Lunar New Year.— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) February 1, 2022
That's why I'm so proud to support @RepGraceMeng's legislation that would make the Lunar New Year a federal holiday.
Happy #LunarNewYear to all who celebrate!
Meng’s legislation was praised by Asian American interest groups such as the nonprofit Asian-Americans Advancing Justice. President John C. Yang told The Post that recognizing Lunar New Year as a federal holiday would lift up a marginalized community and send a powerful message that the U.S embraces diversity.
“I think it’s interesting for us to think about how federal holidays, especially recently, have been created and what that means to us as a country. Think about how long it took for MLK Day to become a holiday, and now we all, regardless of party, use that day to reflect on his legacy,” Yang said.
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