Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña Designate Lunar New Year an Official School Holiday in New York

Dragon in Chinese New Year Parade in New York Chinatown Photo by Lia Chang

Dragon in Chinese New Year Parade in New York Chinatown Photo by Lia Chang

Lion and Dragon masks in Chinese New Year Parade, New YorkChinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Lion and Dragon masks in Chinese New Year Parade, New YorkChinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that New York City will become the second major urban school district in the nation, after San Francisco, to close on Lunar New Year in the official school calendar. In the coming 2015-16 school year, schools will close on February 8 for the Lunar New Year. New York City schools will maintain the same number of State-reimbursable instructional days as part of this change to the calendar.

The holiday will be reflected in the updated DOE school calendar HERE

In recent months, the Department of Education has worked through long-term school calendar planning to accommodate Lunar New Year in the years ahead, while still ensuring New York City can meet its commitment to educating students and meeting the State-mandated 180 days of instruction. The DOE facilitated the addition of Lunar New Year to the school calendar by consolidating two half-days previously designated for staff administrative work, of which neither could count toward the 180-day minimum, into just a single full day. This allowed room for the insertion of the Lunar New Year without any net loss in State aidable days. The DOE added Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as official school holidays earlier this spring.

“We pledged to families we would keep working until we made Lunar New Year an official school holiday, and today we are keeping that promise,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are proud to be the largest school district in the nation to recognize the heritage of our Asian-American community by recognizing Lunar New Year. We thank the legislators and community advocates who worked so hard to make this possible.”

“The addition of Lunar New Year to the public school calendar champions our continued commitment to respecting and honoring the extraordinary diversity of our students,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “This new addition is also a welcome teachable moment in the classroom for our students to learn about the contributions of various cultures. I appreciate the partnership of legislators and community leaders on this effort.”

New York City joins San Francisco, California, and Tenafly, New Jersey school districts, which close its public schools on Lunar New Year. Under the Chancellor’s regulations, students are allowed an excused absence from school for their religious and cultural observances.

“It’s been a long road. But we finally made it. At long last, a school holiday for Lunar New Year will be a reality in New York City and I cannot be more excited. When I was growing-up in Queens, I often felt that my ethnicity was ignored or forgotten about when it came to school holidays. I always wondered why school was closed for my Jewish friends on their New Year – on Rosh Hashanah – but not for my New Year; and many kids and parents of Asian descent have continued to wonder why to this very day. When I first sponsored the bill, when I served in the State Assembly, there wasn’t much support for it, outside the Asian American community. People even laughed at it and said over and over again that it would never happen. I urged the previous Mayor to close City schools for the holiday but he said no. But I knew deep down that momentum would eventually build for it, and that one day, with hard work, its time would finally come. And now, here we are. I could not be prouder to have led the charge on it, and I thank Mayor de Blasio for moving forward with it,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng.

“The Lunar New Year is an important cultural tradition for New York’s thriving Asian American community. I am delighted Asian students will now have time off to celebrate this holiday with their families,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez.

“I am proud to stand with the Mayor of the City of New York and my colleagues at PS 20, the school that I attended 30 years ago, to officially recognize Lunar New Year as a school holiday,” said Assembly Member Ron Kim. “This holiday is not about kids just getting a day off from school. It’s about the City of New York telling hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans that their culture and heritage is part of the American fabric.”

“I am thrilled that the Mayor is keeping his commitment to put Lunar New Year in the school calendar for next year. Finally, students of Asian descent will not be forced to choose between observing the most important holiday of the year and missing important academic work. Lunar New Year is a deeply important cultural observance for some fifteen percent of public school students, and this designation gives Lunar New Year the respect and recognition it has long deserved,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.

“This is a historic day for thousands of New York City school children who celebrate Lunar New Year,” said Council Member Peter Koo. “For too long, families have been forced to choose between celebrating this important cultural holiday and sending their child to school. By including Lunar New Year in the school calendar, New York City shows that we are an ever-evolving city that takes pride in the cultural traditions of its diverse populations. Many thanks to Mayor de Blasio for making good on his promise to our community, and to the countless community advocates and government officials for their steadfast support of this effort.”

“On behalf of Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, I am pleased to join Mayor de Blasio in the announcement of this very significant event. For many of our families, they will no longer need to choose between the educational advancement of their children and celebrating their culture. Lunar New Year is a holiday that is celebrated across many Asian countries and cultures. Like most holidays, Lunar New Year developed based on historical and cultural milestones, which are important for our children to understand and learn about. We would like to thank Mayor de Blasio for keeping his promise to our community and our families,” said Linda Lee, Executive Director of Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York.

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Fariña for adding the Lunar New Year to the official NYC Department of Education School Holiday Calendar.  It will give over 170,00 Asian Pacific American students enrolled in public schools, a chance to also observe the holiday with their family and loved ones without missing a day of school,” said Sheelah A. Feinberg, Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.

“The Asian American staff, Board, and our member agencies are grateful to our Mayor for fulfilling his promise to designate Lunar New Year a school holiday. No longer will parents and students have to worry about missing school to celebrate an important holiday. His leadership on this matter will be empowering to our kids, as it demonstrates that our cultural celebrations matter to this city. Thank you, Mayor!” said Jo-ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation of New York.

cropped-lia-chang_photo-by-carlos-flores-3.jpgLia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

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Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at


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