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Lawmakers urge making Lunar New Year a federal holiday

Dancers perform lion and dragon dances during Lunar New Year celebrations in Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown in 2019.
Jose Luis Magana
Dancers perform lion and dragon dances during Lunar New Year celebrations in Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown in 2019.

Lunar New Year, celebrated by many Asian communities, could become a new federal holiday under a bill proposed by Rep. Grace Meng, a New York Democrat.

If passed, the new measure would make Lunar New Year the 12th federal holiday, and the first since President Biden signed into law a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday last year.

Lunar New Year, which began on Feb. 1 this year, is celebrated by about two-thirds of Asian Americans from China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

As she has in prior years, Meng introduced a House resolution to recognize the cultural and historical significance of Lunar New Year.

"With Asian Americans being the fastest growing population in our country, and with the popularity of the holiday continuing to grow, it makes sense to make Lunar New Year a federal holiday," Meng said. "My bill, coupled with my resolution, would demonstrate that the holiday celebrated by millions is also valued by their government."

The proposal comes amid a disturbing trend of Anti-Asian hate during the coronavirus pandemic, which has driven a spike in violent attacks across the country.

Some school districts around the country, including in New York, Virginia and Iowa, already close for Lunar New Year. The federal holiday designation would allow most federal government employees to take the day off.

The Lunar New Year Day Act, backed by 44 co-sponsors, has yet to receive pushback, Meng told the The Washington Post.

This week, Asians and members of the Asian diaspora kicked off new year celebrations by honoring their ancestors, eating special dishes, watching fireworks and more, to bring in the Year of the Tiger.

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