Federal employees would get another paid holiday for the Lunar New Year under recently introduced legislation in the House.
Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced the Lunar New Year Day Act (H.R. 6525) which would make the Lunar New Year a federal holiday in the United States.
Lunar New Year is now a school holiday in New York in the district which Meng represents. New York public schools were closed on February 1, 2022, for the holiday. Then New York City mayor Bill de Blasio made it a holiday in 2015.
According to Meng, America needs this new federal holiday because of the growing Asian American population:
For Asian Americans, Lunar New Year is an incredibly important, festive and deeply traditional holiday. It’s the most significant time of year for the Asian American community, and is celebrated in the U.S. and across the globe. It has also been observed for thousands of years. With Asian Americans being the fastest growing population in our country, and with the popularity of the holiday continuing to grow, it makes sense to make Lunar New Year a federal holiday. The time has come to make this happen. My bill, coupled with my resolution, would demonstrate that the holiday celebrated by millions is also valued by their government. I look forward to shepherding these measures through the House, and I am excited to wish everyone celebrating a very happy Lunar New Year!
If it were to become a federal holiday, the dates that it falls on would vary, so federal employees would presumably get a paid holiday on the actual date of the holiday, or the day before or after it if it were to fall on a weekend as is now done with current holidays. In 2022, the Lunar New Year date was February 1. Next year, it falls on January 22, 2023, and in 2024, it falls on February 10, 2024.
What is the Lunar New Year?
According to Wikipedia, “Lunar New Year is the beginning of a calendar year whose months are Moon cycles, based on the lunar calendar or lunisolar calendar.” It is primarily celebrated in Asian countries.
According to CNET, the occasion is known as a time of rebirth and renewal as well as an opportunity to honor ancestors and deities.
Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year, dates back as much as 3,500 years. According to China Highlights, one legend about the origin of the holiday states that a mythical creature named Nian would appear on the evening of the new year and eat crops, livestock, and people. One man figured out that Nian was scared of loud noises and the color red, so this led to putting out red lanterns and scrolls as well as using firecrackers to ward the beast away.
Growing List of Holidays for Federal Employees
Federal employees now have 11 standard paid federal holidays. This is a listing of the 2022 federal holidays.
Previously, there were 10 standard holidays, but federal employees got a new holiday in 2021 when a new law was created to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
In some years, federal employees get additional paid holidays, such as for an extra day off at Christmas if a president grants one, or federal employees in the Washington, DC area get a day off for inauguration day following a presidential election. 2021 was one such year as denoted in the list of 2021 federal holidays when inauguration day was held on January 20, 2021.
If other recent legislative proposals were to eventually become law, federal employees could have as many as 16 paid holidays in a typical year. Among the recent proposals in Congress to create new federal holidays are:
Substantial Cost of Federal Holidays
While the rationale for creating holidays is often quoted in press releases and widely publicized, federal holidays also come with a significant financial cost.
Forbes recently estimated the total cost to taxpayers for each federal holiday is $818 million. In reality, it is probably higher because that figure is just within federal agencies in the Executive Branch and does not include the Postal Service or the military.
For 11 federal holidays, that total comes to $8,998,000,000. For 12 federal holidays (adding the Lunar New Year), the total grows to $9,816,000,000. If the list were to grow to 16, the total balloons to nearly $14 billion ($13,888,000,000).
Whether or not any of these new federal holidays were to ultimately be enacted remains to be seen, but since a new federal holiday was established last year and the Lunar New Year has already become a holiday in New York City, it is certainly a possibility.