Should Chinese New Year be a national holiday? | The Tylt
According to some estimates, Chinese New Year is celebrated by over 1.5 billion people around the world. San Francisco claims to have one of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of China, and New York schools close for the first day of the festival season. Some say this is reason enough to declare Chinese New Year a national holiday. Others say that if other popular holidays like Easter, Passover, and Ramadan aren't federal holidays, Chinese New Year shouldn't be either. What do you think?
Should Chinese New Year be a national holiday?
According to ChineseNewYear.net, one in five people in the world are Chinese. Although some cities in the U.S. are home to some of the largest spring festival celebrations outside of China, many celebrants are forced to work through the holiday rather than spending time with or reuniting with their families abroad. Keep in mind:
The most important part of Chinese New Year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner.
So many people travel for Chinese New Year that the season has been labeled the Spring Migration. In China, adults are awarded a full week off of work. By declaring the day a national holiday, Americans celebrating Chinese New Year would at least be able to honor one of their most important traditions by spending the day with their family.
Some say the Chinese population in America is not nearly large enough to warrant a Chinese New Year national holiday. Time and Date reports:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (Census 2000: Chinese Largest Asian Group in the United States; March 4, 2002), the Chinese comprised more than 20 percent of the 11.9 million people who identified themselves as Asians in the United States’ Census 2000. That translates into 2.7 million reporting as Chinese – the largest Asian group in the United States.
Areas with high concentrations of Chinese citizens have made accommodations. Chinese New Year is legally observed in California (San Francisco has been celebrating the season for over 160 years), and New York schools close for the first day of the Spring Festival.
The Wall Street Journal's Jeff Yang reported on a petition to make Chinese New Year a federal holiday in 2013. He emphasized that in China, Chinese New Year is the most important day of the year, but for Chinese immigrants or Chinese-Americans, the holiday is diminished due to cultural norms:
“My husband and I have to work and our kids have to go to school while the biggest celebration of our heritage is going on, and in elementary school, Chinese New Year gets just a passing mention,” notes blogger Grace Hwang Lynch. “That's if it doesn't fall on the same date as Valentine's Day.”
At the very least, schools should close for the day. Or perhaps spend more time educating students on the history and importance of the festival.
But Yang concedes that it costs the government an estimated $500 million in paid time off for every federal holiday, which explains why they are so difficult to create. If Chinese New Year is declared a national holiday, the government would have a long list of other cultural days of significance to recognize:
“Easter, Passover and Ramadan aren’t U.S. federal holidays, despite being observed by far larger segments of the population than those who observe Lunar New Year,” says Reappropriate’s Jenn Fang, whose post on the petition was picked up and reblogged by Chinese web giant Sina.com. “I think Asian American and other cultures that observe Lunar New Year are right to advocate for greater prominence . But I think we should be working to change the social and cultural diversity of the U.S. by normalizing Lunar New Year celebrations, not by advocating for a top-down approach wherein Lunar New Year becomes a federal holiday.”