By Ashley Chen
For Northwest Asian Weekly
Red envelopes are without a doubt my favorite part of being a child during Lunar New Year. Every year for the past 17 years, I’ve received a long red packet with golden Chinese characters printed on top, the perfect snug fit for the 200 yuan my grandparents gave me. And this tradition never gets old because who doesn’t love free money?
Some day when I am married, I’ll be presented with two options: give or don’t give red envelopes. Ever since I was young, I’ve celebrated Lunar New Year in all sorts of different ways. Some years, it’ll be as simple as my grandparents giving me a red envelope. Other years, my whole family will head out to a venue to check out skits and zither performances. As members of the younger generation, it’s up to us whether we want to continue traditions or let them die out.
The current generation has spoken—Rep. Grace Meng of New York has proposed a bill to make Lunar New Year a federal holiday. Asian Americans are a fast-growing population in the U.S., which makes acknowledging our culture and traditions important for growing as an inclusive nation.
The Lunar New Year Day Act has yet to receive pushback, but Meng says it’s too early to determine whether or not the bill will pass. However, there’s no reason why legislators should push back on the addition of Lunar New Year as a federal holiday. Eight-in-ten Asian Americans celebrate Christmas and nine-in-ten celebrate Thanksgiving.
These numbers blur into the background of the general population of Americans, but many people celebrate them because there are dedicated days off from work. Christmas, a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, has become more of a celebration of gift-giving and holiday spirit rather than a religious occasion for non-Christians.
Representation serves as both a window and a mirror within the realm of education. On one hand, representation exposes us to new and different perspectives that shapes our knowledge and subjectivity. On the other hand, representation is a reflection of ourselves, and we are driven to find common experiences through the stories of people who look like us.
Establishing the Lunar New Year as a federal holiday isn’t just for Asians. We want to share our culture with all Americans and make strides in fostering cultural appreciation. From sharing different traditional foods that represent different Chinese puns to bringing a friend to Chinatown to watch dragon dances on the streets, Lunar New Year is about having a good time with friends and family like every other holiday out there.