When Sam Ho saw a petition on Facebook calling on the White House to establish the Chinese Lunar New Year as a national holiday, he clicked “like” and forwarded the post.
Thus are the workings of democracy in the digital age.
Ho is one of about 33,000 people — and counting — who want to see the U.S. adopt China’s most important holiday. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year falls on February 10, 2013.
The petition was posted to “We the People,” a White House website that allows citizens to directly petition the executive branch. The White House only responds if a petition collects 25,000 signatures, which this petition has done handily.
“To be honest,” Zhen Zhang, a research fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, tells Latitude News, “I don’t think the petition will be passed.” Zhang signed the petition, but acknowledged it is unrealistic to ask Americans to celebrate every holiday significant to one ethnic group, no matter how large that group might be. “But we cannot give up without even trying,” Zhang added.
The 2010 Census found that between 2000 and 2010, the Asian population grew faster than any other ethnic group in America. There are 14.7 million Asians in the U.S, or 4.8 percent of the total population, with Chinese being the dominant ethnicity. And 2.6 million people, or 0.9 percent of the U.S. population, self-reported as being Asian in combination with one or more other races. Most of America’s Asians are concentrated in the western states.
“We let people celebrate their own holidays without any restrictions, but we don’t necessarily impose those holidays on the whole nation,” says Merle Goldman, professor of Chinese History at Boston University. “I guess they want more recognition.”
Xu Lin, chairman of the American Chinese Culture Association in Los Angeles, is not optimistic that the U.S. will adopt a second New Year’s celebration. He says it’s more practical to promote the Lunar New Year in the states with large Chinese populations. “If we want to make [the petition] real, we have to do something down to earth. We should do more to promote Chinese-American cultural exchange, to disseminate Chinese culture and to establish the positive image of Chinese [people].”
Lin has been in America for 24 years. But he will spend this weekend celebrating the dawn of a new year back in Beijing with his family.