City Council passes Flushing councilwoman’s resolution to designate Lunar New Year as a federal holiday

Congresswoman Grace Meng and Councilwoman Sandra Ung in the congresswoman’s office in Washington, D.C., prior to a Lunar New Year celebration at the White House. (Photo Courtesy of Ung’s office)

The City Council on Thursday, Feb. 2, passed Councilwoman Sandra Ung’s resolution to designate Lunar New Year as a federal holiday. 

Ung’s resolution specifically calls on Congress to support and for the president to sign legislation introduced by Congresswoman Grace Meng to make Lunar New Year a nationally recognized holiday.

First introduced last year, Congresswoman Grace Meng reintroduced the Lunar New Year Day Act (H.R. 430) in the House of Representatives two weeks ago on Jan. 20.

“This is the most diverse group of City Council members in the legislative body’s history, with a historic six AAPI members, so the passage of this resolution show lawmakers in Washington that there is broad support for making Lunar New Year a federal holiday in a city where Asian American are the fastest growing ethnic population,” Ung said. “Designating Lunar New Year as a federal holiday would be an important recognition of the contributions of Asian Americans to this country, and an important recognition of our country’s rich cultural diversity. I want to thank Congress member Grace Meng for leading this effort at the national level, and my colleagues who supported my resolution.”

Meng thanked the City Council for expressing support for her legislation and applauded Ung for her leadership in pushing it through. 

“As I have said, with the Asian American community being the fastest growing ethnic group in our country, and the popularity of the holiday continuing to increase throughout America, it makes sense for Lunar New Year to become the nation’s 12th federal holiday,” Meng said. “Its time has come, and I am excited to continue championing the legislation in Congress.”

All five of the other AAPI members of the City Council signed onto Ung’s bill as a cosponsor when it was introduced. The list of sponsors includes Ung; Council members Linda Lee, Shekar Krishnan, Shahana K. Hanif, Julie Won, Chi A. Ossé, Kalman Yeger, Lynn C. Schulman, Kamillah Hanks, Alexa Avilés, Carmen N. De La Rosa, Eric Dinowitz, Justin L. Brannan, Tiffany Cabán, Amanda Farías, David M. Carr, Joann Ariola, Joseph C. Borelli, Vickie Paladino, Inna Vernikov and Ari Kagan; and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

When she worked in the office of then-Assemblyman Jimmy Meng, Ung helped draft the original state legislation that paved the way for the designation of the Lunar New Year as a school holiday in New York City. It was observed for the first time in 2016.

When the Department of Education released the calendar for the 2022-2023 school year, however, the Lunar New Year holiday was omitted because it fell on a Sunday. It was not recognized with a day off from school on the following Monday because it is not a federal holiday.

Many Asian Americans felt that this hard-fought recognition of their culture was being disregarded, not only for its importance as an acknowledgment of the history of the AAPI community in this country, but also for the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, just as the holiday is celebrated in Asian communities in other parts of the world.

This underlined the importance of passing federal legislation recognizing Lunar New Year. 

Lunar New Year has its origins in China dating back more than 4,000 years. The celebration spread across Asia, and while it goes by different names in different countries and cultures, the term Lunar New Year encompasses all of the various festivals.