As one of my previous blogs stated, it is Hmong New Year. And I want to clear up some misconceptions of Hmong New Year. My blog “Hmong Mating Season” was a joke. The tradition of Hmong New Year has changed its form over the past decades in America that it has become a “season.” That is why I dubbed it “Hmong Mating Season.”
Very similar to the corporate transformation of many US holidays (Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Halloween, Easter), Hmong leaders and organizations have turned Hmong New Year into a more secular “corporate” holiday. Sometimes the cynical MB believes it is to compete with other Hmong leaders/organizations to say, “Hey, we can make it bigger and better than you.” Traditionally, new year festivals were celebrated at different times so people from other communities can attend. However, with the recent internal political problems some Hmong new year organizations are having, I am thinking otherwise.
The main misconception by many people, is that Hmong New Year consists only of the festivities we see each year: dressing up in colorful outfits, tossing balls, bull fighting (in certain regions), meeting people of the opposite gender, etc. This is not the actual New Year. This is the celebration at the end of the New Year.
The tradition of Hmong New Year does start at the end of the rice harvest, during the last lunar month of the year. (Hmong people follow the lunar calendar. The word for “month” in Hmong is “moon.” Ib hlis = one moon = one month). This is a time to give thanks to the gods and ancestors for a good harvest and good health in the past year and to welcome the new year with more wealth and riches.
In-house rituals are performed, such has “hu plig,” “txi xwm kab,” and “noj peb caug.” There are many other rituals as well. However, in the average Hmong household, these are the main ones.
“Hu Plig” (Calling Spirit) is the Hmong traditional ritual of calling home all the wandering spirits of the household. A shaman usually does this. But I have seen the head of the household (a husband/father/grandfather, or if the paternal head of household is absent, the mother/grandmother) do this ritual.
“Txi Xwm Kab” is the ritual of honoring the God of Wealth and Riches. A new shrine or altar for the God of Wealth is made and goods are offered so that he shall bring forth a new year full of wealth.
“Noj Peb Caug” or “Peb Caug” is the Hmong word for “New Year.” Literal translation is “Eat Thirty” or the shorter version, “Thirty.” Hmong people celebrate their new year for 3 consecutive days. Keep in mind that this is not the festival celebration. This is an in-home celebration where you can invite extended family members or Hmong people of your community. During the New Year, 10 dishes are served each day, thus the meaning behind “Noj Peb Caug,” or “Eat Thirty.” Also during these three days, family members fast from spending money. If you keep the money in your pocket during New Year, you will gain more in the next year.
Then after the Hmong New Year ends, the festival fun starts. The festivities are what everyone look forward to each year. And this is what everyone sees and believes Hmong New Year is about despite it being only a tiny part of the New Year.
Keep in mind that some of these religious traditional rituals may be different to each Hmong family. Different Hmong people in different regions celebrate New Year differently. And with the change of time, traditions change as well. For example, I have yet to see a family eat 30 dishes during the 3 days of New Year.
May the new year bring you lots of riches and good health. Nyob zoo xyoo tshiab!