For the first time in their history, New York City public schools will be closed to observe the Asian Lunar New Year this Monday, Feb. 8.
The addition of the Lunar New Year to the public school calendar, which Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last June, was celebrated by Public Advocate Letitia James, other elected officials and community leaders at the Flushing library on Friday.
James was joined in the Flushing library by others wishing to commemorate the day, including state Senator Daniel Squadron, Congresswoman Grace Meng and representatives from the Asian Americans for Equality, The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, the Flushing Chinese Business Association and other community groups.
James said the measure was a recognition of New York’s vibrant diversity and commended advocates who fought for the change.
“Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays of the year for thousands of New Yorkers and their families,” James said.
About 15 percent of the public school student population missed school the last time Lunar New Year fell on a weekday in 2012, according to the public advocate’s office. On that day, 16 schools in Queens — and 62 schools in the city overall — had their lowest attendance rate of the year.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, an early champion of the change, said nobody took it seriously and people even laughed when she first proposed creating a school holiday for Lunar New Year several years ago.
“Now here we are,” Meng said. “I am proud to have helped lead the charge to secure this school holiday, and I’m extremely pleased that Asian American students will no longer be forced to choose between celebrating with family or missing school.”
Asian Americans for Equality Executive Director Christopher Kui thanked the city and Public Advocate James for recognizing the importance of the holiday so that families are able to celebrate together.
“Lunar New Year is a cherished holiday for the growing Asian American community,” Kui said. “It is a time for loved ones to come together, and a time to celebrate our cultural heritage and diversity.”