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NY State Lawmakers Again Propose School Holiday For Lunar New Year

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Some New York state lawmakers are again working to allow school districts to make the Chinese New Year an official school holiday.

As WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported, attendance on Lunar New Year in some districts, including Chinatown, is so low that parents said it's not even worth sending their children to school.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) have been working for five years to make Lunar New Year a recognized school holiday.

NYS Lawmakers Again Propose Allowing Schools To Take Off For Lunar New Year

"I know a lot of people might say, 'You know what, we're not Asian. We don't care about it," Jennifer Fung, a mother, told CBS 2's Cindy Hsu. "But guess what: Our children, when they have Yom Kippur (and) Rosh Hashanah off, they ask. It gets them interested in learning about different cultures."

The de Blasio administration has voiced support for the proposal.

"We do think that this bill addresses a lot of the concerns that we've heard in the Legislature, such as, how is it that we're determining which holidays are significant in different districts?" Squadron said.

The bill would ask school districts to individually consider recognizing Lunar New Year as a holiday instead of mandating the day off for all schools across the state.

The measure would also allow schools to opt in or out, similar to how Brooklyn Day and Queens Day are only marked in those two boroughs.

The push to allow districts to take off for Lunar New Year comes a day ahead of the holiday. Celebrations, which last through Feb. 15, will be held to usher in the "Year of the Horse."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered his best wishes to those who celebrate.

"During this joyous celebration, members of New York's large and vibrant Asian community will take the opportunity to pay respect to their elders and ancestors, spend time with family, give thanks, and look forward to a new year filled with luck, happiness, and prosperity," he said in a statement. "In New York, this special occasion is celebrated by a variety of festivals, parades, and joyful gatherings that preserve and enrich a proud heritage. My best wishes to all of those celebrating the Lunar New Year for a peaceful, healthy and successful new year."

Students at P.S. 124 in Chinatown who were rehearsing for their Lunar New Year performance told Hsu the holiday is about food and family.

"My whole family comes to my house and have big feast and eat mooncakes and dumplings and other stuff," said Kassidy Shyu, 6.

Other good-luck foods include fish, oranges and noodles. Giving children red envelopes with money inside is also a big favorite.

"One time, I got a red envelope, and it had $500 in it," said Michelle Lee, 6.

But usually just a few dollars is good enough.

It's also good luck to get your hair cut, clean your home and wear red clothes.

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