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SF City College fights for a Lunar New Year holiday after California bill stalls

A young ribbon dancer performs for the crowds on Market Street during Lunar New Year celebrations on February 19, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

After a proposal to create a statewide Lunar New Year holiday was suspended in California’s legislature, San Francisco’s community college will discuss their own plans to make the popular Asian festival a campus day-off.

Trustee Alan Wong of City College of San Francisco (CCSF) will bring this topic up at Thursday’s board meeting and formally lay out the plan.

“Lunar New Year is the most widely observed holiday for families in San Francisco’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities,” Wong wrote in the resolution, and he said that the early immigrants have been celebrating the festival since 1851 in America.

The largest body of students at the college is Asian with over 30% of students identifying as such in 2020, according to data on their website. That is followed by Latinx students who made up around 27% of the student population the same year.

City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Campus is pictured on Thursday, June 7, 2022. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

Wong’s resolution will urge the state lawmakers to amend the California Community College Education Code to allow local districts to implement a Lunar New Year observance. 

He suggests combining the current two holidays in February, “Lincoln Day” on February 12 and “Washington Day” on the third Monday of the month,“ to one “President’s Day” holiday. This would effectively free up one day for a Lunar New Year holiday. 

But occasionally, Lunar New Year falls in late January, like the 2023 date, which will be on January 22. Wong said the exact holiday date can move around and does not necessarily have to be in February.

Claudine Cheng, the founder and president of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Foundation, applauds Wong’s action.

“It is clearly time for this resolution,” said Cheng, citing the option to celebrate the Lunar New Year in educational facilities is consistent with the observation already in place at the San Francisco Unified School District, which will create opportunities for diverse communities to get to know each other.

Cheng also said Lunar New Year’s celebration is “part of the broader American culture,” such as the United States Postal Service will issue the Lunar New Year stamp and San Francisco City Hall will host the event every year to highlight the importance of this occasion.

Lion Dancers throw sparklers as they pass through the large crowds during Lunar New Year celebrations on February 19, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Earlier this year, Assemblyman Evan Low proposed to make the Lunar New Year a statewide holiday, but the bill has been suspended because of the potential cost to the state and the economy of an additional holiday.

Phil Ting, a Chinese American assemblyman representing the westside of San Francisco, expressed his interests for this idea and said he’s supportive of promoting cultural understanding in educational systems, especially in a time of the Stop Asian Hate movement.

“In the midst of rising hate against the AAPI community,” said Ting. “A Lunar New Year holiday would give community college students a time to reflect on the special significance of this celebration and encourage acceptance.”