Citizens and officials request mayor add Lunar New Year to public school calendar

Host 1: Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that he would add two Muslim religious holidays to the public school calendar.

 

Host 2: On the heels of that announcement, there were renewed efforts today to make Chinese celebration of the Lunar New Year a public school holiday  Anjuli Sastry reports.

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Lunar New Year is an annual celebration that marks the turn of the Chinese calendar. This year’s celebration took place Feb. 19 with parades across the city. 

 

Jerry Chan, who lives in Queens, wanted his two kids to stay home for the holiday.

 

Chan: I encourage them not to go to school because it’s a holiday and they need to know is a tradition. (0:05)

 

Chan’s concern is that his children won’t feel validated at school.

 

Chan: My daughter came up to me one time and is like, Dad, I’m off on a Jewish holiday. But I’m not Jewish. None of my teachers are Jewish. (0:08)

 

In fact, in places like Sunset Park, a majority of students in the area don’t attend school when the Lunar New Year falls on a weekday. The total Chinese population is just over 557,000 in the city. Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Mongolian ethnic groups also celebrate lunar new year on the same day as the Chinese.

 

At the rally today, Congresswoman Grace Meng said she was caught off guard when de Blasio chose to add two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, to the school calendar instead of lunar new year.

 

Meng: In the heart of our Lunar New Year Celebration, we were very puzzled and concerned to hear that when the school calendar for upcoming school year was set, only Eid was included and not Asian new year. (0:12)

 

New York City Parent’s Union President Mona Davis says the city should account for other religions other than just Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

 

Davis: We have more students that celebrate Diwali, more students that celebrate Chinese New Year, and more students that celebrate Muslim holidays than what we have than example Jewish students in the system. (0:13)

 

At a press conference last week, de Blasio was asked about his campaign promise to add lunar new year to the school calendar.

 

de Blasio: “We are in a very tight situation, as I said, with the number of days that we have to achieve each year. We remain focused on it, but it will take more work.” (0:08)

 

As for Jerry Chan and his family, it’s been a struggle. He says he’s been trying to get Lunar New Year on the school calendar for the last 15 years.

 

Chan: We didn’t come off the Mayflower okay. But we are here, we are in the melting pot. We are here celebrating other peoples’ religions, other people should celebrate our religions too. (0:07)

 

The last holiday added to the public schools calendar before the two Muslim holidays was Martin Luther King Day in 1986. Despite the addition of the Muslim holidays, the total number of school days will remain at 182.

 

Anjuli Sastry, Columbia Radio News.

 

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