Tag Archives: chinese new year

Federal, state and city officials: ‘Make Lunar New Year an official school holiday’

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

State lawmakers have strengthened a renewed push to make Lunar New Year an official school holiday, garnering support from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Students shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between celebrating their heritage and missing a day of school,” the newly-risen speaker said.

The City Council plans to introduce two resolutions, calling for schools to close and metered parking to be suspended on one of the most important holidays of the year in Asian communities, Mark-Viverito said.

Multiple other measures have been introduced in the state and federal levels that call for a similar break for families.

A bill that would establish Lunar New Year as a school holiday for districts with an Asian-American population of at least 7.5 percent has been introduced in the State Senate and Assembly for years.

Flushing is the only neighborhood in Queens to meet the criteria, along with Chinatown in downtown Manhattan.

While it has made no movement in the past, elected officials gathered Friday in downtown Flushing to declare 2014 the year of action.

“This is the year and this is the time we believe it’s going to happen,” said Councilmember Paul Vallone, who is drafting a bill that would suspend metered parking that day.

About 14 percent of city students in the school system are Asian-American, Mark-Viverito said.

Officials have long argued absence rates in some city schools climb 80 percent on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Though observing students are “excused,” the absence is marked on their record.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, who spearheaded the Assembly’s attempts during her last tenure, proposed a resolution in Congress this month, asking local education agencies that include the city’s Department of Education to close schools that day.

“One day, we’ll look back and see that we made history,” said Councilmember Karen Koslowitz.



‘Year of the Dragon’ roars in

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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The Year of the Dragon is upon us, roaring in and carrying with it an array of exciting cultural festivities. This Lunar New Year, celebrated on January 23, marks the 4,709th year on the Chinese calendar. Regarded as one of the most important holidays in the Far East, Lunar New Year is customarily celebrated with a lively parade — complete with a fiery, ornate dragon — and a colorful fireworks display.

Each year is named for one of the 12 figures of the Chinese zodiac. According to Kathy Hung, executive director of the New York Chinese Cultural Center, the Year of the Dragon — the sixth figure of the zodiac — symbolizes royalty and many feel it is extremely lucky to have a baby born during this year.

Hung added that those observing the holiday spend Lunar New Year’s Eve with their relatives, collectively attempting to stay awake as long as possible. She remarked that staying up late is done while holiday observers pray for longer life and luck in the New Year. Envelopes are traditionally handed out to members of the family, enclosed with letters of good fortune. Children generally receive money on this holiday, so that they may purchase new clothing and other necessary items for the New Year.

Families observing the holiday will string traditional decorations such as glowing red paper lanterns and banners inscribed with phrases like “good fortune,” “happiness” and “longevity” throughout their homes. Messages of luck are abundant during this holiday, as it signifies the future and plentiful opportunity.

According to Hung, firecrackers are traditionally set off during the holiday to scare away evil.

New Yorkers hoping to celebrate the Lunar New Year need not look very far. On January 29, Chinatown will ignite with New Year spirit as a parade dances through lower Manhattan.

In Queens on February 4, Flushing will flood with festival goers watching the 16th annual Lunar New Year Parade as it makes its way down Main Street. Booths dishing out ethnic treats are set to line the streets for attendees hoping to grab a tasty snack while watching a beautiful fireworks display.

Flushing Town Hall is hosting a variety of events as well over the weekend of February 4 and 5. A free dance sampler will he held on February 4, displaying a variety of performances in styles from China, Korea, India, Thailand, Taiwan and the Pacific Islands. On February 5, participants can craft their own Chinese dragons while learning about the creature’s wise and prosperous characteristics. Instructors will also teach attendees how to make lucky Korean bags, traditionally made to contain wishes for the upcoming year.