Missing school for an unrecognized holiday can be marked as an absence on student records. New York state Senator Daniel L. Squadron and Assemblywoman Grace Meng recently pushed for legislation to make the Lunar New Year an institutionalized public holiday. The two legislators are currently awaiting approval for the law from state officials.
Originally, this law sounded personally appealing. As a proud Chinese American, I believe that this would have a profound cultural impact on Asian families. However, unless the Department of Education recognizes every holiday for every ethnic group, it seems unfair to single out the Lunar New Year as one exclusively for the Chinese. The Chinese zodiac says this year of the dragon is supposed to bring prosperity, but even with good fortune, I find it hard to believe that this law will pass.
Welcoming a diversity of over 800 spoken languages, New York City is a linguistically rich home to more than 9 million people. Approximately 6% are Chinese Americans, according to the 2010 census. This however, is a small percentage compared to the other racial groups that reside within the city such as Hispanics and African Americans, as well as various European cultural groups.
There are some other countries where Chinese New Year is observed as a public holiday like Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Philippines, and Indonesia. However, this seems logically reasonable because, compared to New York and the United States, these nations have a sizable population of Chinese people.
And this raises another question: How long do we expect students to be away for? The new year begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar and runs for the span of 15 days. Frankly, that seems like an excessively long and unnecessary period of time when the price of education is concerned.
For many people, this is considered to be the most important time of their calendar. The streets of Chinatown and Flushing are adorned with red ornaments and the night sky is lit up with colorful fireworks and enticing lanterns. But it is more than just celebration. It is when relatives can come together to honor one's elders. Families visit the most senior members of their extended families like grandparents to revel in the new year.
It is only natural for individuals to want to learn about their own culture. This law will give the younger generation an opportunity to fuel their curious fire and spend some quality time with family. But the reality of the situation is, Chinese Americans do not make up the bulk of this population for this to be heavily considered.
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