Hmong New Year.: Becoming Minnesotan

Mao Song Lyfoung Vang, Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, c.2000.
  • Name - Mao Song Lyfoung Vang
  • Age at interview - 80
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 01.27.2000
  • Hmong New Year, St. Paul, 1980s.  Photo courtesy MayKao Hang.
    Hmong New Year, Highland Junior-Senior High, St. Paul, December 19, 1981.

    We Are Here

    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for

    blessed
    chanting
    mate

    Background Information

    The Hmong New Year is an annual celebration that takes place in the fall to honor the ancestors and give thanks for the completion of the year’s harvest.  Over three days certain rituals are performed to honor the spirits of ancestors and to provide for the health and safety of the current family in the New Year.  After these three days, people celebrate for several days with outdoor sports, and games, music, dancing, and feasting.

    Hmong culture is constantly evolving and changing, especially as younger generations grow up in the U.S. and adapt more to American culture.  The Hmong New Year and other traditional festivals in Southeast Asia lasted for days.  The Hmong in the U.S. have adapted the New Year celebration to accommodate stricter work schedules and further distances that people travel to attend.

    To learn more about Hmong history and culture, visit our Hmong Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Mao Song Lyfoung Vang 1
    1:26 Minutes | 1.38Mb

    Transcription

    Note: Original interview was conducted in Hmong.  Excerpt is read in English by MayKao Hang.

    Narrator: Mao Song Lyfoung Vang (MV)

    MV:  During the New Year, everyone got to eat new rice, pay respect to the ancestors, prepared some chicken, pork, invited relatives and friends over to celebrate the New Year and everyone will be blessed with good luck. Everyone worked hard on the farm, worked hard a full year round and everyone’s blessed with good luck. Invited relatives, sisters, brothers-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law to come and have a good feast to welcome the New Year.

    During the New Year, the young people will celebrate the New Year with ball tossing, chanting, and so on, but the Hmong had no parties. If there is a funeral, everyone dressed up with new clothes and went and helped each other. We celebrated the year once a year, and the young men and women were out to find their mate. Everyone gathered during the New Year to prepare good foods, rice cake, etc. The young men and women helped each other to prepare food and invited everyone to celebrate the New Year.

    There was ball tossing, and playing games such as badminton, top spin, spear throwing, kheng, boxing, a lot of games…hide and seek, and track and field. I have seen all of the Hmong’s original traditions with my own eyes. Celebrating the New Year, we held all of the activities outside with a lot of people such as ball tossing, chanting, etc. It was fun, but now we don’t that. This is just a little brief description.


    Related Glossary Terms

    ancestors

    Noun:  Ones from whom a person is descended, whether on the father's or mother's side, at any distance of time; progenitors; fore fathers.

    blessed

    Adjective:  Having divine aid, good fortune, or other blessing.

    chanting

    Noun:  Type of singing done generally without instruments and harmony that requires the repetition of the same spoken words.

    kheng (qeej)

    Noun:  A bamboo and wooden mouth organ found throughout Eastern Asia, played by the Hmong at funerals and during New Year.

    mate

    Noun:  A partner, usually in marriage.

    tradition

    Noun:  A custom that is practiced within a group.

    Citation

    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 484