The Lunar New Year Should Be a National Holiday

Chinese New Year is celebrated on a different day each year, around the same time. This year, it falls on February 16th, and it is the Year of the Dog.

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Photo Credit: Sylvia Chan

Photo Credit: Sylvia Chan

Photo Credit: Sylvia Chan

Sylvia Chan, News & Copy Editor

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Imagine going to school on Thanksgiving or Christmas. It wouldn’t be ideal, would it?

What about those students who celebrate the Lunar New Year? The Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year) is a holiday celebrated by a majority of Asian countries including China, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. The Chinese zodiac calendar this holiday is based off of is different from the one the rest of the world uses. Chinese New Year is celebrated on a different day each year, around the same time. This year, it falls on February 16th, and it is the Year of the Dog.

Chinese New Year isn’t a religious holiday, but a time to reunite with loved ones, have a gigantic feast of a dinner, clean the house to get rid of “bad spirits,” and to welcome in the new year. Parents usually tend to get a Chinese New Year bonus in their paychecks and children get red envelopes from adult relatives filled with money.

Being a Chinese-American myself, this holiday has always been my favorite time of the year growing up. I always got new pairs of jeans – a superstition, lots of red envelopes with money (my only source of income at seven years old) and ate delicious food.

With the combined pressure of staying on top of class work, homework and tests, particularly for Advanced Placement classes, the thought of missing a day of school for the holiday is totally out of the question. For me, the last few Chinese New Years have been nothing but a day full of stress, followed by a big dinner I’m too tired to fully enjoy. Tragic.

No American can imagine going to school on Thanksgiving Day, coming home at four in the afternoon to eat turkey and then doing two hours of homework later at night.

In recent years, some school districts have decided to add this holiday to their calendar.

Right here in the DMV, Maryland’s Howard County school board voted unanimously to be off the eve of Chinese New Year in 2016. “Our community is thrilled by this news,” said Jean Xu, president of the Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County. “We can finally celebrate our holiday with our families, and we don’t have to choose between an instructional day and our cultural tradition.”

In Prince William County, Asian-Americans make up eight percent of total student enrollment. Here at Hylton, Asian-American students make up approximately six percent of the entire student body.

PWCS’s vision statement notes that “student learning will be enhanced by national, global, and multicultural perspectives.” Taking the time to recognize Chinese New Year as a school holiday would broaden students’ multicultural perspective and understanding of a culture that represents more than 7,000 students enrolled in its school division.

Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced in 2015 that all New York City school students would have Chinese New Year off to ring in the Year of the Monkey. “The addition of Lunar New Year to the public-school calendar champions our continued commitment to respecting and honoring the extraordinary diversity of our students,” said School Chancellor Carmen Farina. “This new addition is also a welcome teachable moment in the classroom for our students to learn about the contributions of various cultures.” The New York Legislature passed a bill stating any city in the Empire State with an Asian population over 7.5% would be required to recognize the holiday.

In San Francisco and Tenafly, New Jersey, Chinese New Year is also marked as a school holiday.

It’s food for thought, so take it with a grain of salt (or with a grain of rice).

           

 

 

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