More than 80 boys and girls had a special Lunar New Year celebration with California Senator Scott Wiener on Friday in San Francisco to mark the state's official recognition of the festival.
In festive traditional Chinese outfits, the students at Ulloa Elementary School performed singing and dancing for the guests, including local elected officials. Wiener handed out each of the children a "red envelope" with his signature on it.
Asian Pacific Islander communities, which have been in California for more than 150 years, have played a key role in building California and making it what it is today, said Wiener.
"I am proud that California recognizes the significance of the Lunar New Year," he said. The celebrations, like the one at Ulloa Elementary School, will help students and their schools understand the cultural significance of this day, he said.
In January 2018, Wiener co-authored Senate Bill 892, requiring California to officially recognize the Lunar New Year, the grandest celebration for Chinese and many other Asian cultures. Then Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law in August.
The law encourages all public schools and educational institutions to conduct exercises recognizing the traditions and cultural significance of the Lunar New Year, the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islander Californians to the state and hold local festivities and celebrations for the occasion.
All students at Ulloa Elementary School had a day off on Feb. 4, the Lunar New Year's Eve, to celebrate the Lunar New Year, said Carol Fong, the school principal.
The tradition of the Lunar New Year should be respected and it's important for the students to have a school holiday for the festival, she said.
San Francisco is among a few jurisdictions in California that have already designated the Lunar New Year as an official school holiday. The state board of education recognized the Lunar New Year as a festival of special relevance in its third-grade curriculum in 2016.
The Lunar New Year celebration in San Francisco Chinatown is considered the oldest and the largest of its kind outside of Asia and dates back to the 1860s.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, some school districts, where the Lunar New Year is not an official school holiday, students also get to have a day off on the Lunar New Year's Eve due to request from parents.
Some school districts moved teachers' meeting day to the Lunar New Year's Eve so that students didn't need to attend school on that day.
"I hope other school districts call follow suit to designate the Lunar New Year as an official holiday," said Fong. "It encourages students to discuss the accomplishments of Chinese Americans and it's a great way to promote cultural understanding."