Will Lunar New Year become a state-recognized holiday in Washington?
The House Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations passed a bill Friday that would establish Lunar New Year as a state-recognized holiday in Washington state.
Previous legislation to make the annual celebration a paid holiday in 2023 failed to make it through the state Legislature. This year's measure, sponsored by state Rep. My-Linh Thai (D-Bellevue), would be more symbolic, but Thai said that doesn't lessen the bill's importance.
“It acknowledges our legacy of enriching cultures, economic development, advocacy for social justice, and innovation and creativity," said Thai, who is a Vietnamese refugee.
Lunar New Year is one of the world's largest annual celebrations among East Asian and Southeast Asian communities. The exact date of Lunar New Year changes every year and is associated with an animal from the zodiac. In 2024, the Year of the Dragon begins Feb. 10.
Thai said her bill, which moves on to the House Rules committee, celebrates the valuable contributions by Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities to Washington state.
The bill encourages governmental entities and educational and cultural organizations to celebrate the Lunar New Year. It requires the State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs to create programing and resources for those groups to use in their celebrations.
“As we step into the Year of the Dragon,” Thai said, “let’s embrace shared understanding and build genuine connection.”
Thai said the holiday signifies new beginnings and family gatherings. Recognizing it on a state level, she said, would foster a more inclusive Washington.
In 2023, state lawmakers balked at making Lunar New Year a paid state holiday, which would have cost $5.7 million every two years.
The state currently recognizes 19 days that are not legal holidays. Washington has 11 paid holidays, including Juneteenth, which became a paid day off for Washingtonians in 2022.