Lunar New Year: How NYC schools are celebrating the holiday

Lunar New Year: New York City public school students can celebrate the Asian festival this year by staying home – school will be officially closed. 

Stuart Ramson/HO
In this handout photo from Explore Chinatown, children watch a Chinese lion dance during the Lunar New Year celebration, in New York's Chinatown. Jan 29, 2006.

New York City public schools are wishing students a happy Lunar New Year by officially recognizing it as a holiday. Kids and their families will be able to celebrate with a day off school.

In a city where one in eight residents is of Asian descent, according to the US Census, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean American parents for years have had to choose between celebrating the most important Asian holiday with their children or maintaining their attendance records.

According to New York state senator Daniel Squadron, whose constituency includes residents of Chinatown, the number of Asian Americans in the public school system is higher even than the city total – one in six students are of Asian descent. And on Asian Lunar New Year, the absentee rate at some schools could be as high as 80 percent.

But for some parents, missing a day of school is still hard to justify, despite school policies that allow students to receive an excused absence for religious and cultural observations.

There was no way our parents would let us skip school,” New York Rep. Grace Meng (D) of Queens said at a press conference this summer. Ms. Meng proposed making Lunar New Year a school holiday for the first time when she was in the New York state legislature.

“No one wants their kid to have an extra absence on their record,” she added.

So, as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in June, all New York City school students will have the upcoming Monday off to ring in the Year of the Monkey. 

“We pledged to families we would keep working until we made Lunar New Year an official school holiday, and today we are keeping that promise,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We are proud to be the largest school district in the nation to recognize the heritage of our Asian-American community by recognizing Lunar New Year.”

His decision to add Lunar New Year to the list of school holidays came three months after his inclusion of two Muslim holy days – Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr – to the school calendar. Local and state lawmakers were upset that the Asian festival wasn’t on that list.

While New York City is now the biggest school district to include Lunar New Year as a school-recognized holiday, it’s not the only one. Maryland’s Howard County voted unanimously in January to include it on the school calendar, in addition to Eid al-Adha, the Hindu holiday of Diwali, and two Jewish holy days

San Francisco and Tenafly, N.J., which is home to a large Korean American population, also mark Lunar New Year as a school holiday.

“[We] are setting a high bar for inclusiveness for the rest of the country,” City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told the New York Daily News. She added that the city schools have also developed a Lunar New Year curriculum supplement for students and families to learn about the holiday.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to