Chinese-American Residents Make Case for Recognition of Lunar New Year on Academic Calendar

Jonathan Hong Addresses the Board of Ed Credits: Mr. Liu
Jonathan Hong Addresses the Board of Ed Credits: Carolyn Moses

LIVINGSTON, NJ – Inspired by the remarks of both students and parents in attendance at the March 21 Livingston Board of Education (LBOE), board President Ron Spring and LBOE members voted in favor of a proposal for a shared Lunar New Year/Professional Development day to be formally marked on the 2017-18 academic calendar.

Prior proposals that were on the table for recognizing a holiday that is important to many Livingston residents included one that recognized the holiday by itself and awarded students a day off from school. A second proposal would allow those celebrating to enjoy the day off while also doubling as a “Professional Development” day for the teaching and administrative staff.  

An array of representatives from Livingston’s Chinese-American community made an appearance before the LBOE Monday to make their cases for the change to the calendar. Livingston resident Jing Yao requested that the LBOE seriously consider marking the calendar for Lunar New Year. After describing the importance of this holiday to Chinese families, Yao read a letter from her daughter, Olivia Yao, a senior at Livingston High School.

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“As a Chinese-American, I view Chinese New Year as a day that should be celebrated with family and friends, focusing on traditions and good wishes for the next Lunar Year,” said Yao. “I am proud to be an American, but also proud of my Chinese heritage and strongly believe that the Lunar New Year should be further recognized by the Livingston School District.”

Board Chair of the Livingston Chinese Association (LCA), Jie Yuan, reported an uptick in the association’s membership over the past few years due to a significant influx of young Chinese families moving into Livingston. He addressed the LBOE by stating that the LCA strongly supports the Lunar New Year effort insofar as it will give Asian Pacific American students an opportunity to observe the holiday with their loved ones without having to miss a day of school to do so. 

“It will send a message to the community that our educational institution respects the families that make up this community and respects those families’ dual commitment to education and their heritage,” said Yuan.

Enshan Hong said his son, Mt. Pleasant Elementary School student Jonathan Hong, felt strongly that he wanted to appear before the LBOE himself to present a passionate plea for the importance of voting in favor of proposal. Although the younger Hong said that in prior years, when the Lunar New Year fell out on a school day and he missed the true spirit of the holiday, he painted a vivid picture of his enhanced experience this past year, when the holiday occurred on a Saturday.

“I was able to celebrate it with my family. First we got to watch the gala in China on TV and then we got to make dumplings and phone my grandparents. It was an unforgettable experience. I hope that in the future, this can happen again,” said Hong. “This idea is not new. Other places like New York City, Tenafly, Holmdel and West Windsor have already closed their schools on Lunar New Year.”

Spring concluded the meeting by reminding session attendees that the LBOE is only able to make a determination for the upcoming year and that the issue would have to be revisited again by the operating 2017 board for the 2018-19 school year.

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