It's official: Chinese New Year is school holiday in NY

New York - On Wednesday night at the Yung Wing School, a public elementary school in Chinatown, students performed songs from the Disney musical Mulan, dancing crisply in traditional silk costumes ironed that morning by their parents. These were the voices of the next Asian-American generation in New York City - and they were loud.

Granted, many of them did not fully grasp the significance of Mayor Bill de Blasio's announcement the day before: Chinese New Year will now become an official public school holiday. But their parents and community leaders did.

It had taken 10 years to get the winter holiday on the calendar, the culmination of a persistent campaign by a handful of officials and advocates representing a divided and often politically reticent population.

"It makes us proud that the city is paying attention to us - and our holiday," Ms Wendy Lam, 48, the mother of a fifth-grade actor, said in Mandarin. "It's an important day for families to be together." She added in English: "So proud. We tried to get the holiday for so many years."

The calendar designation is new, but among the city's Asian-Americans, who make up 15 per cent of New Yorkers, the question of why it took so long has been a perennial conversation - albeit a hushed one.

"It took a while for our community to speak up," said Ms Jenny Low, 52, board chairman for the Chinese-American Planning Council, who was at the Mulan performance.

"We've been a silent community for hundreds of years. We just have not been good about voicing our needs."

The city's Asian population increased to about 1.3 million last year from nearly 873,000 in 2000, according to an analysis of census data by the Asian American Federation, a non-profit group based in New York.

New York Times

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2015, with the headline 'It's official: Chinese New Year is school holiday in NY'. Print Edition | Subscribe