Everyone is invited to the Hmong New Year!

By Christy Pham
November 1, 2017

Hmong New Year

Hmong community members celebrating Hmong New Year. Photo by Kia Vang.

This week, Kia Vang is cleaning and polishing the numerous coins attached to the waist of her tunic and around her hat, both pieces a part of her traditional Hmong clothing.

She is preparing for Hmong New Year, a time each year for her to celebrate the Hmong community.

“Our Hmong community here in Seattle isn’t as large as other Hmong communities,” she explains. “We’re not all in one place so being able to have everyone come together all at once is really special to us.”

Indigenous to the hilltops of China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar, Hmong people first arrived in the United States as refugees in 1975. According to the 2010 Census, there are 260,073 Hmong people living in the US with 2,404 in Washington state. The Hmong community in Washington is spread out through Everett, Lake Stevens, Burien, Kent, and Seattle.

Every year, they gather at the Hmong New Year Celebration, a free and public event put on by the Hmong Association of Washington since 1984. This year, it will take place on Saturday, November 4, at the Seattle Center from 11am-6pm.

“It’s the one day a year we get to show off our Hmong clothes, show off our performances that we’ve been practicing all summer for, to really show who Hmong people are and what that means,” says Vang.

One of her favorite New Year traditions is ball tossing, an old courtship ritual between potential mates. Although “people don’t do it that much anymore,” Vang thinks it’s a good way to socialize and she enjoys seeing people carry on the tradition.

Hmong New Year

Hmong festive traditional clothing. Photo by Kia Vang.

For holiday foods, Vang’s favorite is Hmong sausage with special Hmong seasoning, a spicy blend of chili peppers, cilantro, fish sauce, lime, and other spices.

In addition to traditional activities and foods, there are also cultural dances, live music, games, art, and a marketplace at the celebration.

For the past eight years, Vang has been volunteering at the event with her family. As Secretary of the Hmong Association of Washington, Vang and her team began planning in May. This year, they focused on making the event more engaging and educational.

For example, there will be a head wrap demo showcasing different hat styles from different Hmong tribes with Hmong elders showing their knowledge and skills. There will also be a food demo in which a community member will be cooking traditional Hmong dishes for people to sample – take home recipes available for anyone wishing to try!

Vang hopes that more than just Hmong people come celebrate.

“Hmong New year isn’t just for our community,” Vang says, extending the invitation to everyone. “It’s for our entire greater Seattle community and Washington.”

Visit the event page to learn more.