Approximately 30,000 people gathered in Minnesota’s capital city for the state’s 43rd annual Hmong New Year celebration over the weekend, drawing attendees from around the world.
About the event: Organized at the St. Paul RiverCentre, the event aimed to keep the Hmong cultural heritage alive by showcasing the community’s culture through various elements such as food, clothing and performances. Visitors, including those from Laos, Thailand, China and South Korea, had the opportunity to experience and learn about Hmong traditions.
The event featured a dance competition for youngsters and the sale of various crafts. Described as the most significant cultural event for Hmong globally, the celebration is a time to celebrate the harvest, rejoice in the community and express gratitude to ancestors. Minnesota’s tradition, which started 45 years ago, attracts people to the city due to the limited presence of Hmong communities elsewhere.
“There’s not a lot of Hmong communities out there, so we try to make it to the bigger cities like Minnesota,” Lana Her of Arkansas told CBS News.
Hmong community’s legislative victories: At the two-day festivities’ opening ceremony, Governor Tim Walz highlighted legislative victories for the Hmong community, including land ownership for Hmong farmers. State Rep. Ethan Cha also emphasized Minnesota’s significance for Hmong Americans, citing the state’s strong Hmong political representation with nine Hmong legislators.
“The future of all Hmong in America is going to be the state of Minnesota. And I say that because we have nine Hmong legislators in the state of Minnesota,” Cha said, according to MPR News. “That is profound evidence of the opportunity and the equity that is here in Minnesota for Southeast Asians like the Hmong.”
About the community: The Hmong, persecuted as an ethnic minority in China, initially fled to the mountains of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Many fought for the U.S. during the Vietnam War and later sought refuge in Thailand. From the mid-1970s, they resettled, primarily in California and Minnesota, escaping Communist regimes.
The majority of the approximately 300,000 Hmong in the U.S. are animists, believing in spirits throughout the physical world. Lee Pao Xiong, director of the Center for Hmong Studies, notes the intricate spiritual significance of cultural traditions, including the Thanksgiving weekend celebrations in St. Paul.
Sacramento Hmong New Year festival: Thousands of Hmong community members also gathered at Cal Expo over the weekend for the Sacramento Hmong New Year festival. The three-day festival featured various events, including the Miss Hmong California pageant, a Hmong Idol singing competition, arts and crafts showcases, food and local business vendors and talks from prominent figures in California’s Hmong community.
The festival, in its 18th year, drew a large crowd, with people donning vibrant Hmong dresses, suits, vests and hats adorned with silver coins and colorful beads. Sacramento City Councilmember Mai Vang, a Hmong native and daughter of refugees, expressed the importance of celebrating the new year. Vang is the first Asian woman and the first Hmong woman elected to City Council.
“It’s just a really beautiful time to be with family, be with community, celebrate our culture and our roots and be together,” Vang said, according to The Sacramento Bee. “This is my favorite time of year. We’re celebrating the end of our harvest season, really just celebrating everything that we worked hard for and celebrating the new year.”
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