Lunar New Year Celebrations and the Push to Make it a Washington State Holiday

Submitted by Chris Carr on
Lunar New Year Lion Dance Performers

The Lunar New Year is based on the moon's phases and not the traditional calendar so it falls on a different day every year - usually sometime between the end of January and middle of February. This year, the holiday fell on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. Many Asian countries celebrate it, and some traditions are shared, while some are not. For example, Koreans don't seek out oranges. Instead, they make it a point to eat rice cake soup or ddeokguk. It's thought you don't age another year until you eat it. People also eat a lot of foods thought to bring prosperity. For example, Chinese people like to eat oranges and dumplings because they look like gold nuggets.

"You want to have the whole fish because it's intact and it means abundance," Professor Connie So added. So is an American Ethnic Studies professor at the University of Washington. "You have to have cauliflower, because it's fa choy, and it means a lot of prosperity."

There are even different names for the holiday as well. In Korea it's called Seoullal (설날), in Vietnam, it's called Tết. In China, it's called Chinese New Year.

Read the full article and view the news clip, which features Professor Connie So and Han Eckelberg, AES alumnus, here.

Last month, State Rep My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, and 15 co-sponsors proposed a bill to make Lunar New Year a state-recognized holiday. The bill advises government agencies and educational and cultural organizations to celebrate Lunar New Year and requires the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs to create and develop Lunar New Year programs and resources for state entities.

The statewide effort to recognize Lunar New Year comes amid increased visibility for the holiday in the U.S. In 2023, Colorado became the second state after California to mark Lunar New Year as an official but unpaid holiday. In recent years, New York and Philadelphia began recognizing it as a public school holiday, and and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., reintroduced a proposal to make Lunar New Year a federal holiday

During the Washington state Legislature’s 2023 session, Thai sponsored a bill to make Lunar New Year a paid state holiday, which would have given state employees and public schools the day off. The 2023 bill ultimately did not progress due to high costs to taxpayers and a lack of community support for the measure, Thai said.

“We should recognize the richness of diversity and backgrounds represented in our state,” said Connie So, a University of Washington professor of American ethnic studies. “And understand the importance of wanting to see one’s own experience reflected in what we hope will eventually become a state holiday.” 

Read the full article here.