Tradition Of The Hmong: Celebrating The 41st Hmong-American New Year At The St. Paul RiverCentre

By Kerry Xiong




“What is tradition?” is the question of conversation between The Hmong Times and The United Hmong Family, Inc.’s chairwoman, Mee Vang, regarding the 2020 Minnesota Hmong New Year (MNHNY) celebration at the St. Paul RiverCentre.

Tradition is an act of the past embraced and repeated in the present. “It is the way our parents, grandparents and ancestors have celebrated the coming of a new year for thousands of years; a blessing of the home and preparing for a new year with anticipation of new things to come,” said an enthused Vang. That much is true, especially in the upkeep and arrangement of the cherished 2020 MNHNY celebration. In changing times, innovation and creative thinking are a must.

Did you know?

The MNHNY at the St. Paul RiverCentre has been hosted by The United Hmong Family, Inc. (UHF, Inc.) over the past four years, succeeding the former Lao Family Community of Minnesota (LFC).

Colonel Ly Teng was one of the founders that started the MNHNY-RiverCentre 40 years ago. He serves as a current board of trustees with the UHF, Inc.

Back in 2015, UHF, Inc. buckled down in litigation with LFC regarding the organization’s financials in an attempt to uncover their fund allocation agenda with respect to the MNHNY-RiverCentre. LFC abruptly resigned. This was reportedly the toughest year in the history of the beloved MNHNY-RiverCentre (UHF, Inc., 2019).

UHF, Inc. reports that the MNHNY-RiverCentre costs about $90,000 to run, per day, but only makes $30,000 per day, from all sales combined. That’s a loss of $60,000 each day.

UHF, Inc. board members put in many volunteer hours to ensure that the MNHNY-RiverCentre goes on.

Compensation toward the MNHNY-RiverCentre deficit comes from profits gained from the annual J4 Freedom Festival.

Friday (the first day of the three-day MNHNY-River Centre) historically receives the fewest number of attendees. For that reason, Friday has been removed from the 2020 MNHNY-RiverCentre.

The Hmong New Year symbolizes a time of harvest and good fortune. Vang explains, “It is important to keep traditions alive. To be Hmong is to remember the struggles of our parents, what they did to bring us to this great land. It’s being able to remember the Vietnam War and the sacrifices that were made for future Hmong generations.”

“In recent times, we see that young adults and the elderly do not attend the MNHNY anymore, because people have become career-driven and on these few days off, they’d rather spend time at home with their family. We see a lot of teenagers and grade school kids come more; they dress in their vibrant clothes and join in on the tradition-old game of ball toss, or watch competitions. UHF, Inc. has really tried to implement creative changes to the MNHNY to appeal more to the youth. A theme was implemented starting 2019. This year’s theme is ‘Embracing the Present and Inspiring Future Generations.’ We want to give young people support to dream big.”

And support there is. Abbott, a top medical technology company based in the Twin Cities who employs many Hmong individuals, is sponsoring the MNHNY-RiverCentre’s Essay Contest, open to all, for a chance to win $1,000 in exchange for the essayist’s perspective on the meaning if this year’s theme.

Come and join in on the Hu Plig ceremony during the Grand Opening on Saturday, November 30th at 10:30 a.m. “Families that no longer have a head of household to hu plig (offer soul calling from all the misfortunes of the year’s past) find this really heartfelt. This is why we keep this Hu Plig ceremony in the festival,” says Vang. As a token of warmth and goodwill, blessings are handed out with a boiled egg, to participants in welcoming the New Year.

“The Minnesota Hmong New Year celebration is a fond pastime for families and friends to gather and honor our elders, especially those that have helped shaped our lives through the year,” Vang says in closing. “Invite all your friends and family, Hmong and non-Hmong. Everyone is welcomed to wear their Hmong and/or American attire and come join in the culture. Come enjoy the food, arts, music, and heritage.”