Far East Center stakeholders and owners addressing the crowd during the celebrations, photo by East West Center in Washington Young Professional Denise Geronimo

Colorado Observes its First State-Recognized Lunar New Year


As the second state in the United States to recognize Lunar New Year Day as an official holiday, Colorado embraced and uplifted the diverse cultural heritage of its Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.

In June 2023, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed HB23-1271 into law, establishing Lunar New Year Day as an official state holiday on the first Friday of every February. This action confirmed Colorado as the second state in the nation after California to formally recognize the culturally rich tradition of celebrating the New Year based on the lunisolar calendar.

Also known as the Spring Festival, Lunar New Year is a fifteen-day commemoration of the start of springtime observed by various Indo-Pacific countries, including China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Although this two-week festivity is one of the most important social events of the year for some East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures, for most Americans, the Lunar New Year is another day to go to work.

In Colorado, however, the holiday looks different.

As a designated observed public holiday, the state’s Lunar New Year Day makes office closure optional for Colorado government facilities. This opportunity allows state officials to fully appreciate and engage with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities.

AA and NHPI populations are the fastest growing demographic in the United States, increasing by over 30% in the last few years and becoming an integral part of the American society and the economy. In a tweet, Colorado Governor Polis emphasized that, in Colorado alone, around 180,000 state residents identify as AA and NHPIs.

This bill is [. . .] a big step toward a Colorado for all, towards celebrating everyone—no matter where you come from, who you are, or where you live,said Colorado Governor Polis during a live speech.

According to HB23-1271, the 2023 adoption of the state-wide Lunar New Year Day was a direct response to the surge of anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic. This formal recognition of a time-honored tradition holds significant implications for how Indo-Pacific communities perceive Colorado, signaling a meaningful acknowledgment of their cultural heritage and fostering a sense of belonging and respect within the state.

I feel like there’s a sense of welcome now and that they’re recognizing that we’re here,” said Far East Center Manager Mimi Luong in an interview to the East-West Center in Washington, “For our state to recognize a holiday that is very cultural and that we celebrate, it means a lot.”

The Far East Center is a shopping mall and cultural hub in the Little Saigon district of Denver, Colorado, and Luong’s family opened it in 1986 after escaping the Vietnam War and immigrating to the United States. This past weekend, the Center hosted its 33rd Lunar New Year celebrations, which included martial arts demonstrations, 25 local vendors, and a guest appearance from Colorado Governor Polis.

Outside of the city of Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs also hosted their own community events.

On February 9th, the Town Center At Aurora, a regional shopping center, offered free face painting, catered traditional Thai food, and led a parade of Asian-owned businesses. In Colorado Springs, the Asian Pacific Market held a free Chinese New Year jamboree on February 3rd with lion and dragon dances and prize raffles.

These individual city events underscore the growing recognition and appreciation of Lunar New Year festivities within the state's diverse communities, and they signal a promise of more cultural celebrations to come.

I want my kids and the younger generation to continue learning about these cultures and traditions,” said Luong, “These events bring the joy for the people around us [and the] feeling that there is a Lunar New Year celebrated here.


Denise Sievert Geronimo is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a recent graduate from Colorado College, where she studied International Political Economy and Journalism.