Hmong New Year 2016, just like any other Hmong New Year, would be celebrated on the last day of the 12th month according to the lunar calendar.
This day is celebrated with much pomp and glory in those parts of the world where there is a sizeable number of people who belong to the Hmong group. The ethnicity of the Hmong people can be traced back to the Asian subcontinent, and they belong originally to the Miao racial group.
The Hmong group of people was originally found in the areas of Thailand, China, Laos, and Vietnam. However when these countries went through political unrest during the 18th century, a large number of them were provided refuge in the countries like France, United States, Canada, South America, Australia etc.
The Hmong New Year is celebrated after the harvest is reaped. This is the period when people enjoy the fruits of all the labor that they put in all round the year. This is also the time when they know the bounties of harvest would ensure prosperity for them. Consequently, this is the time when people can afford to take a short period of break from the toil that they have put in round the year to make the harvest fruitful.
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Harvest and agriculture have always been considered to be immensely important since society in the ancient times was hugely dependant on agriculture. This was primarily a Thanksgiving occasion when people expressed their gratitude for the bounty of crops that were harvested. With the progress of time, however, gradual changes were also adopted to the Hmong New Year celebrations.
Hmong New Year is also known by the name of "Noj Peb Caug" and a lot of traditional rites and rituals are attached to the day and its celebrations. Some of the observances take place indoors while there are other rituals and celebrations that happen out of doors.
- Traditional Indoor Observances of Hmong New Year:
- Out of Door Ceremonies associated with Hmong New Year:
Hmong New Year celebrations typically happen sometime around the month of November or December when plotted against the modern day calendar system. The celebrations have been planned in a manner so that they keep in mind the social and cultural backgrounds of the Hmong community as well that their religious beliefs. Hmong New Year celebrations are mostly pivoted around the home and the hearth, and as such the home, the family and its members are an integral part of the celebrations. Next is the significance of the community. For the occasion the entire family with all the branches inclusive of the in laws come together to join in the commemoration of the Hmong New Year. This is the occasion when even the ancestors are paid tribute.
Every Hmong household believes that the New Year celebrations are made in a way so as to honor the Cycle of Life. The cycle of life never stands still. Life always moves in a forward direction. This is also what the New Year essentially reminds the people – New Year is the time to let the bygones be bygones and move forward for a better tomorrow.
The Hmong community attaches great respect to their ancestors, even those who are departed. On the occasion of the New Year as the entire clan of family gathers together, the ancestors are not left alone from the congregation. Prayers are made to invite the departed souls of the ancestors to join in the commemoration and the family unites to pay them homage and seek blessings. There is also the tradition of paying respects to Xim Kaab, who is believed to be the house spirit who is responsible to bring Wealth to the family. The younger members of the family pay their respects to the elders and seek their blessings. Some households also welcome the house spirit called Shee Yee. This spirit is believed to be responsible for blessing the family with good health round the year. In some homes there exists the tradition of sacrificing chicken and eggs to show a revered welcome to the house spirits and also to the souls of the departed ancestors.
Hmong New Year is typically a three day celebration when people believe in turning over a new leaf in the chapters of life. As such this is the time when people clean their homes, wear new clothes and partake of festive meals. Hmong traditions speak of “Eat Thirty” as part of New Year celebrations, and in keeping with this people often cook ten different kinds of dishes on each of the three days of the celebrations, so as to sum up to thirty dishes in the three days.
Hmong New Year celebrations deeply honor the rich culture and heritage of which the community is extremely proud. However, the Hmong New Year celebrations are not limited to the observance of traditional rites and rituals. A lot of entertaining activities take place pivoted around the Hmong New Year. The celebrations begin with the observance of the rituals inside the house, and once those are over, people move out of doors for fun and frolic. In keeping with the joyous nature of the celebration, a number of games are played, some of which are traditional, while others are more recent in their origin.
Some Hmong people believe in the ritual of walking past under a vine. This ritual is believed to be the symbolic representation of the fact that New Year is the time to leave behind all that has been a part of the past, and to move forward and embrace whatever the future has in store with a lot of positivity and hope. Some Hmong households believe it is auspicious for the women to fetch clean water when the clock strikes midnight to announce the arrival of the New Year. Traditional form of entertainment includes Bull Fight.
Among the more modern forms of entertainment a very popular one is serenading girls with songs that would melt their heart. Another popular sport that is played during this occasion goes by the name of Pov Pob. It is a simple game where adolescents and young adults are made to stand as couples facing each other. They are supposed to keep tossing a ball amongst each other. If one team drops the ball the other one scores a point. Many fun competitions too are organized by the community where people can come together, have fun together, and form a strong bonding with each other.