Monday, December 14, 2009

Hmong Community Celebrates New Year 2009-2010

Pa Houa Xiong crowned Miss Hmong Milwaukee 2010

By H. Nelson Goodson
December 13, 2009

West Allis -The Wisconsin Hmong community held their annual New Year's cultural celebration last Saturday and Sunday at the Wisconsin State Fair Expo Center. The two day indoor festival attracted thousands of people. Music, a pageant, crafts, food and ethnic herbal healing items were provided by an array of vendors.

Pa Houa Xiong, 22, was crowned Miss Hmong Milwaukee 2010, and for first place in the Hmong Traditional competition, 'Nkauj Hmoob Hnub Qub' won the contest. Xiong as the queen will be awarded a prize of $3,000, and Nkauj Hmoob Hnub Qub won a prize of $800, according to the Hmong Milwaukee New Year pageant organizers.
The event was sponsored by the Milwaukee Hmong Committee composed of various Hmong non-profit organizations.
Hmong's residing in the state were able to enjoy the New Year celebrations in two counties, which includes Waukesha and Milwaukee. In Waukesha, the event was hosted by the Lao Family Community and in Milwaukee, the event was sponsored by the Hmong Milwaukee New Year Committee composed of four Hmong organizations, known as a Hmong Consortium.
The Consortium is dedicated to preserving, promoting, enriching and educating the general public about their culture encompassing 18 Hmong Clans. Milton Moua is the current chairman of the Hmong Milwaukee New Year's Committee reported that over the weekend an estimated 14,000 people attended the two day New Year's celebration.
On December 6-7, the Lao Family Community held its New Year's celebration at the Waukesha Expo Center. The following results were released for, Miss Hmong pre-teen winners: 1st Kao Liag Yang, 2nd Sheng Xiong, 3rd Feng Chong Vang; Traditional Dancer winners: 1st Kao Hnu Qou (Nkauj Hnub Qub), 2nd Kao Lee Chee, 3rd Kao Hmong Sam Nuer; Singer winners: 1st Kao Nhia Yang, 2nd Ka lia Vang, and 3rd Cha Yang.

Honorary guest and Hmong Leader General Vang Pao, 79, and his wife participated in the Waukesha event.  It was Gen. Vang Pao's third time to participate in Lao Family Community New Year's celebration.  In his speech to the attendees, Gen. Vang Pao said, not to use their last name to discriminate one another, but to use the last name only for marriage purposes. He encourage for women not to rush into marriage, but to continue their higher education. Education is very important in a marriage for both men and women. He called for unity and to continue to work together among the many Hmong clans.  "We must work together as Hmong," Gen. Vang Pao said. Pao was previously charged in federal court with conspiraring to over throw the Lao government, but charges against him were later dismissed on September 18, 2009. 
Between December 26, 2009 through January 2, 2010, an eight day Hmong International New Year's celebration and Miss Hmong International pageant will also take place in Fresno, California, which is considered the largest gathering of Hmong people in the nation. People from all over the world visit Fresno during the Hmong festival.
In Wisconsin, the largest Hmong gathering takes place during Labor Day weekend in the City of Oshkosh. provides an overview of the Hmong culture and costumes. The Hmong New Year celebration is a cultural tradition that takes place annually in select areas where large Hmong communities exist and in a modified form where smaller communities come together. During the New Year's celebration, Hmong dress in traditional clothing and enjoy Hmong traditional foods, dance, music, bull fights, and other forms of entertainment. Hmong New Year celebrations have Hmong ethnic traditions and culture, and may also serve to educate those who have interest in Hmong tradition. Hmong New Year celebrations frequently occur in November and December (traditionally at the end of the harvest season when all work is done), serving as a thanksgiving holiday for the Hmong people.
Historically, the Hmong New Year celebration was created to give thanks to ancestors and spirits as well as to welcome in a new beginning. Traditionally, the celebration lasts for ten days, has been shortened in America due to the difference between the traditional Hmong farming schedule and that of the American 40-hr work week schedule. It has also served the double purpose of a convenient meeting place and time for the Hmong leadership, from the days of China even until now.
During the Hmong New Year celebration, the Hmong ball tossing game pov pobs is a common activity for teenagers and young adults. Boys and girls form two separate lines in pairs that are directly facing one another. Girls can ball toss with other girls or boys, but boys cannot ball toss with other boys. It is also taboo to toss the ball to someone of the same clan. The pairs toss a cloth ball back and forth, until one member drops the ball. If a player drops or misses the ball, an ornament or item is given to the opposite player in the pair.
Ornaments are recovered by singing love songs (hais kwv txhiaj) to the opposite player. But in recent times, in such areas as China, the young lovers have been seen to carry tape players to play their favorite love songs for one another. The Hmong New Year celebration—specifically based on both religious and cultural beliefs—is an “in-house” ritual that takes place annually in every Hmong household.

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