Congresswoman Grace Meng led a delegation of Queens elected officials on Sept. 9 to witness Governor Kathy Hochul sign legislation declaring Lunar New Year a public school holiday across New York state at her Manhattan offices.
“By designating Lunar New Year as an official school holiday, we are taking an important step in recognizing the importance of New York’s AAPI community and the rich diversity that makes New York so great,” Hochul said. “It is not just a day off from school – it is an opportunity for our children to learn about and celebrate their own or different cultures and traditions.”
For Meng it was the culmination of more than a decade-and-a-half of advocacy on behalf of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
“It was an honor to join Governor Hochul as she signed this historic bill and I applaud her for making it the law of the land in our state. When I was in the State Assembly in 2009, I led the bill to establish a New York City school holiday for Lunar New Year, and I remember how people laughed at it,” Meng said. “There were so many naysayers who told me that it would never happen. Now, look at how far we have come. I am proud of the work I have done to help get us to this point and I thank all who played a role as well. And in Congress, I am continuing the fight by pushing legislation I authored that would make Lunar New Year a federal holiday.”
The legislation amends the education law to declare Asian Lunar New Year a public school holiday statewide. The legislation requires that all public schools close for the Lunar New Year holiday.
“The Lunar New Year is the most significant time of the year for Asian Americans, and as the fastest growing community in the country, we need to make sure our heritage, culture and traditions are treated with the same respect and reverence as any other American holiday,” state Senator John Liu said. “Declaring Lunar New Year a State holiday is an important step in the recognition and validation of Asian Americans not just here in New York State, but throughout the country.”
It was such a historic occasion, Assemblyman Ron Kim brought along his family to witness the signing.
“It took multiple generations of lawmakers to finally make Lunar New Year a recognized statewide holiday and I want to thank Governor Hochul for recognizing Asian Americans in a meaningful way,” Kim said. “From former members Jimmy Meng, Ellen Young and Grace Meng to new members like APA Task Force co-chair Grace Lee making this legislation a top priority, I’m grateful for all their contributions.”
As the first South Asian woman ever elected to New York State Office, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar called the law historic in that it recognizes the “rich diversity of the state,” and its AAPI community.
“Over 1 million New Yorkers across the state celebrate Lunar New Year and today we say to all of them that we see you and we recognize you,” Rajkumar said. “I was proud to help drive this historic bill to passage. Today, we are making our education system work for all the diverse communities in our State. In an era of rising hate against the AAPI community nationwide, New York is a beacon of respect, tolerance, and love for people of every faith and background.”
Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani noted that the bill’s signing means hundreds of thousands of Asian New Yorkers no longer have to decide between attending school or celebrating the Lunar New Year with their friends and family.
Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas concurred.
“Lunar New Year is an important holiday for many cultures practiced and represented by our neighbors across New York City and State,” González-Rojas said. “With the signing of this bill into law we can continue to validate that all cultures should be celebrated by New Yorkers including our school children. Thank you to the prime sponsors and advocates for getting this done.”
The next Lunar New Year is Feb. 10, 2024.