As the Asian American community prepares to begin celebrating Lunar New Year on Sunday, Jan. 22, Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng on Friday reintroduced a package of legislation to commemorate the holiday.
Meng’s legislative Lunar New Year package includes the Lunar New Year Day Act, which would establish Lunar New Year as the 12th federal holiday recognized across the United States. It also includes a resolution, “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Lunar New Year,” that commemorates the long history and explains the cultural importance of the holiday.
Lunar New Year celebrates the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. People often celebrate with festivals, special foods, gatherings with family and loved ones, and a variety of cultural traditions and performances.
In the U.S., the day also highlights the culture, heritage and contributions of Asian Americans. This year celebrates the Year of the Rabbit, which is considered the luckiest of the 12 animals that are assigned to the zodiac calendar. The rabbit symbolizes elegance, peace and mercy. Meng was born in the Year of the Rabbit. For the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, this year marks the Year of the Cat.
“I have been championing efforts to celebrate and recognize this holiday since I was a member of the New York State Assembly. I was thrilled to help New York City be among the first municipalities to make Lunar New Year a public school holiday, and I am honored to continue leading this effort at the federal level,” Meng said. “Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in our country, and it is important that our history and culture be recognized as part of this nation’s shared culture.”
According to Meng, her federal holiday bill is about more than just a day off from work or school. It’s about educating people on cultural practices and expanding experiences beyond one’s individual heritage.
“I look forward to shepherding this bill through the House and would like to wish everybody celebrating in Queens and around the world a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Rabbit!” Meng said.
Directors of national Asian organizations applauded Meng’s effort to recognize the holiday in the United States.
“On behalf of the members of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, we thank Congresswoman Meng for her continued, exemplary leadership,” said Gregg Orton, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). “Lunar New Year holds great importance to so many families within our community, so to see it uplifted in Congress, and more widely acknowledged in different spaces, is a small, but significant, sign of progress. We wish all good health and success in the year to come!”
Abraham Kim, executive director of the Council of Korean Americans (CKA), said Lunar New Year is a culturally rich and family-focused celebration for many Asian Americans and Asians across the globe.
For generations, it has been an opportunity for extended family members and close friends to gather to welcome a new year with traditional foods and blessings for loved ones,” Kim said. “We applaud Congresswoman Meng’s effort to recognize this important holiday in the United States so that many Asian Americans can reflect on and honor their heritage, family ties and history.”
Quyên Ðinh, executive director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), celebrated the reintroduction of Meng’s resolution and bill to honor and celebrate the cultural and historical significance of Lunar New Year.
“The Lunar New Year is an important celebration for many Southeast Asians. We hope that Congress will recognize the many Americans who celebrate this holiday and that this package serves as a reminder of the prosperity and strength of our nation when we embrace our many peoples and cultures,” Dinh said.
Haipei Shue, president of United Chinese Americans (UCA), said the organization “will work in tandem with Congresswoman Meng to advance this bill to make America a truly diverse and pluralistic democracy.”