Assemblymember Grace Lee Makes History by Passing First in the Nation Bill to Make Lunar New Year a Statewide Holiday in New York

This bill will make Lunar New Year a statewide public school holiday in New York, bringing long overdue recognition to the most widely celebrated holiday in Asian culture.

Albany, NY– Today, Assemblymember Grace Lee, Co-Chair of the New York State Assembly Asian Pacific Islander (APA) Task Force, passed bill A07768 - historic legislation to make Lunar New Year a statewide public school holiday in New York. This bill is a powerful action by the New York State Assembly to recognize Asian Americans and promote diversity and inclusion, particularly at a time when Asian Americans are suffering from a severe rise in anti-Asian hate. This legislation will make New York the first state in the country to mandate statewide school closures in observance of Lunar New Year, marking a significant milestone for the Asian American community. 

“I am proud to have led the movement this year to make Lunar New Year a statewide public school holiday in New York,” said Assemblymember Grace Lee, Co-Chair of the Asian Pacific American Task Force. “As a mom of three school-aged children, I know how important Lunar New Year is as a time for families to gather and be together. Now, all children across New York State will have the day off to celebrate with their families. This school holiday will offer the potential for conversation in the classroom for teachers and students to discuss and learn about Asian American culture. Promoting acceptance and inclusion of Asian culture and heritage is particularly important at a time when Asian Americans are suffering from record levels of Anti-Asian hate and violence. This is a landmark achievement to recognize New York’s Asian American communities and will set a standard for other states to follow throughout the country.”

Read Assemblymember Lee’s full remarks on the Assembly floor:

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

I grew up in a place where I was one of only a few Asians kids in my school. I was not able to share and be proud of my cultural heritage. I was made fun of for being Asian. I was the girl on the playground who looked different, whose parents could not speak English well, who was embarrassed she did not fit in with the other kids. To be here, to do this, to pass this legislation to recognize Asian Americans across our state, is something my younger self never would have imagined.

I came to New York because I was seeking a place where I could belong, and this state welcomed me. Now I have 3 daughters I am raising as New Yorkers, where Asian-Americans make up over 18 percent of the population and are the fastest-growing minority group in the state. My children are proud to share their cultural heritage and to wear their hanbok and cheongsam to school to celebrate Lunar New Year. It is a celebration of who they are and an opportunity to educate their classmates. It is a moment of cross-cultural exchange and understanding.

Lunar New Year is the most widely celebrated holiday among Asian-Americans in New York. By recognizing this holiday, it sends a message to Asian-Americans that we matter and that we belong here. This move holds particular power at this moment, when hate crimes against our community have spiked by over 300 percent, and many Asians are treated like foreigners – simultaneously targeted and unseen.

A statewide Lunar New Year holiday gives all New Yorkers the opportunity to pause and learn about our traditions, and also about the contributions that Asian-Americans have made to this country. We are still asked ‘Where are you from?’ even though we have been here for centuries. We are the workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad. We are the small business owners who opened stores and restaurants when racism barred us from entering other professions. We are doctors and teachers and athletes and musicians who have enriched our communities across this state. We have served in the military and died for this country. And our neighborhoods are among the most historic in the United States, including Manhattan’s Chinatown, which I have the great honor of representing as the Assemblywoman from the 65th District.

And we are making our mark in government, too. 14 years ago, now-Congresswoman Grace Meng first took on this effort in this chamber. It is the collective power and the persistence of those who came before me that have culminated into this history-making moment. So, from one Grace to the next, I’m honored to carry this torch for our community by making Lunar New Year a statewide holiday so that when someone asks us, ‘Where are you from?’, we can proudly say, ‘we are from New York.’ I want to give a very special thanks to our great Speaker for his unwavering support of our community. I will be voting in the affirmative.”