The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

California celebrates Lunar New Year as a state holiday for the first time

Katherine A. Zhang
A crowd of people stroll through the Lunar New Year festival organized by the Millbrae Cultural Committee. This festival is just one of the celebrations that occurred for Lunar New Year’s first year being celebrated as a state holiday.

Lunar New Year, a holiday important to many Asian Americans, is being celebrated as a state holiday for the first time. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2596  in September 2022, which made Lunar New Year a state holiday in California, thus allowing state employees to take eight hours off to celebrate it. Newsom also wrote about what recognizing the Lunar New Year as a state holiday would do culturally, as the holiday acknowledges the diversity that Asian Americans bring to California and allows more Californians to participate in it. 

“I am immensely proud of the richness of diversity and backgrounds represented in our state and understand the importance of wanting to see one’s own experience reflected in state holidays,” Newsom wrote. 

Lunar New Year spans from Jan. 22 to Feb. 5 this year, and many celebrations honoring the holiday have spread across California. According to the Pew Research Center, about two-thirds of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese Americans celebrate the holiday. Those who celebrate typically hold family reunions and carry out different traditions during these times. 

“We usually decorate the house before the holiday, and on the day it starts, we clean the house and have dinner together as a close family. We also FaceTime our grandparents to wish them a happy new year,” said junior Peyton Lo, an officer for the Chinese Culture Club.

Attendees of a Lunar New Year festival browse through a shop with many decorations for the holiday. (Katherine A. Zhang)

In addition, Asian Americans come together to celebrate the holiday by attending festivals or fairs at which various booths often line the streets and sell products ranging from food to art prints or traditional clothing. These events are typically open to the public, and attendees can watch performances displaying dances or music traditional to East Asia.

“I’m hoping we can work towards involving everybody in the holiday. It doesn’t have to be ‘I have to be Chinese or Vietnamese.’ We can help everybody better understand the holiday, and hopefully, that can be a bridge to inclusivity,” said Mindy Chiang, the Chinese teacher at Carlmont.

Lo shared ideas similar to Chiang and gave some insight into her own experiences with celebrating the holiday with others.

“Everyone can celebrate Lunar New Year. If your family celebrates it already, you can always get your friends to join and have a New Year’s Eve dinner together,” Lo said. “Sometimes, our neighbors host a little gathering for the Chinese New Year. It’s very nice to recognize the culture, even with people who have never originally celebrated it.” 

Xiaojian Zhao, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, believes Lunar New Year becoming a state holiday has helped change the sentiments towards it and the opportunities it provides. In the past, if someone said that they celebrated Lunar New Year, they could’ve been viewed as unassimilated, but with advancements such as Lunar New Year becoming a state holiday, that mindset is changing. 

“In the past, celebrating Lunar New Year could’ve been seen as ‘you’re not American,’ but now, it is an American holiday. The holiday has become more legitimate, although schools could still do more to bring people together to talk about the meanings of Chinese culture,” Zhao said. 

However, Zhao believes that Lunar New Year becoming a state holiday will automatically encourage more people to talk about it and what it represents. 

“This is an excellent opportunity for anyone who is curious about the holiday to ask questions. People are more curious about Lunar New Year now, and they want to know what’s going on,” Zhao said. 

Chiang, too, believes this development could lead to further change in the future. She believes that although there are quite a few committee community celebratory events already, this development will only create further progress. 

“If Lunar New year is an official holiday, it could potentially have the community think, ‘Okay, we’ll use this day for this specific celebratory activity,’ which I think will be good because it will open the door for all the other minorities to get their holidays recognized as well,” Chiang said.

A group of performers, at a Lunar New Year festival, playing instruments traditional to Asian culture. (Katherine A. Zhang)

Lo shares a similar perspective, believing that Lunar New Year becoming a state holiday is a great development because it raises more awareness for East Asian culture and others along with it. 

“I think it’s a really good idea to have Lunar New Year as a state holiday because East Asians have been celebrating it for so long, and now it’s finally being recognized. More can be done still, such as supporting the Asian community by bringing more representation into classrooms and education or donating to anti-Asian hate organizations, but this is a really good first step in recognizing our culture as part of America’s culture,” Lo said.

Chiang has opinions similar to Lo’s and high hopes for the future of the Asian American community. 

“I just hope we get recognized. I hope we are treated fairly and equally because, at the end of the day, I think that’s what everybody wants,” Chiang said.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
About the Contributor
Katherine A. Zhang
Katherine A. Zhang, Highlander Editor
Katherine A. Zhang, class of '25, is a junior at Carlmont High School and a staff writer for the Scot Scoop. She is looking forward to meeting new people and learning more about the community. Katherine enjoys reading and spending time with her friends when she has free time. Twitter: @Katherine00718

Comments (0)

We invite comments and responses to our content. Comments that are deemed appropriate and relevant will be published.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
California celebrates Lunar New Year as a state holiday for the first time