By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (April 17, 2010) – The Lao New Year is based on the Theravada calendar of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka – and is celebrated on first full moon in April, which in 2010 fell on April 13 – with three days of ceremony and festivities.
In the United States the Lao American communities celebrate it for one day-long event on the most convenient weekend, which in Minnesota was last Saturday at the Minnesota National Guard Armory, where a few hundred guests enjoyed a morning Buddhist ceremony, an afternoon Miss Nang Sangkane pageant and parade, a Baci ceremony and evening entertainment.
The celebration follows the New Year celebrations based on the lunar calendar in China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.
Bounheng J. Saycocie, president of the Lao New Year Committee and chairman of the Wat Lao Buddhist Temple in Monticello, said that in addition to the ceremonial gifts of food, incense and clothing to the four resident monks, the event served as a fundraiser to support the Wat Lao Temple (watlaomonticello.org) , where four monks reside in addition to visiting monks and the programs they facilitate.
“The New Year is one of the few times each year where the entire Lao community from all around Minnesota can get together for one occasion,” said Saycocie.
The tradition begins with the faithful paying respects to the monks and elders. Also known as the Water Festival in Laos and Thailand, there is plenty well-wishing for luck, health, wealth and prosperity. The monks led a prayer ceremony before the community presented them with a feast in thanks for spiritual support of families and community.
Katelyn Phoydouangdy of Lao Women’s Association performed the New Year Wishing Dance. The ethnic Hmong Lao community was also present with a Nang Sangkane contestant and dance troupes, Hmong Girl Freedom and Minnesota Angel.
The Lao Student Association also produced a dance group. There was a talent show put together by iLLphatic and Mickey Van Lo, along with a modern dance by “Justin, Somchai and Tommy.” The Lao Junior Models also put on a Customs performance.
There were seven Miss Nang Sangkane pageant contestants to exemplify the seven daughters of King Kabinlaphom, a story of legend, lost his head as a prize to solve a riddle, but as a deity his head was too powerful to the elements and so his daughters cared it in a cave of the sacred Mountain Phoukao Kailat and paraded with the head for the New Year.
The contestants competed in several rounds that judges everything from their poise and character, to their traditional clothing, cultural knowledge, interviewing skills and personality.
Last year’s winner, Donna Southa, 16, a sophomore at Burnsville High School and daughter of Dianna Southa, was present to crown the new Miss Nang Sangkane. She said the contestants have worked hard to keep the traditions and culture of Laos alive in America.
In her year as Miss Nang Sangkane, Southa said she enjoyed using her presence to inspire the younger generation of the importance of keeping their honoring and maintaining their culture and values.
Contestant 1 was Emily Souvannarath, 18, a Chaska High School senior and daughter of Vanh and Pik Souvannarath. She was sponsored by Lao Golf Minnesota. She plans to study psychology in college.
Contestant 2 was Ashley Sengsavang, 18, an Inver Hills Community College freshman who is studying to be a pharmacist, and daughter of Chan and Sue Sengsavang, was sponsored by Lao Veterans Association.
Contestant 3 was Jeminah Chaisuk, 16, a Hope Academy sophomore and editor of the school newspaper, Heart of Hope. She is the daughter of Thawai and Venekeo Chaisuk. She was sponsored by Ruanthai Restaurant.
Contestant 4 was Ally Chanthalangsy, 21, a Minnesota State University – Mankato junior, and daughter of Chanpheng and Sangvane Chanthalangsy. She was sponsored by Lao Tennis of Minnesota.
Contestant 5 was Thippavanh Biengbouasy, 22, a recent arrival to Minnesota from Laos, where she attended beauty school. She is the daughter of Bounsou and Phimsavanh (Lae) Biengbouasy and will soon go to work as a receptionist as she adjusts to her new home. She was sponsored by Lao Express.
Contestant 6 was Joni Phiravanh, 16, a South High School sophomore, and daughter of Khamsouk and Khamphong Phiravanh, is a member of her student council and Silver Ribbon Committee, competes on the track team, and plays on the Minneapolis Novas Gins Hockey team. She was sponsored by Lao Student Association of the University of Minnesota.
Contestant 7 was Jessica Xiong, 16, a North High School sophomore, and daughter of Koua Xiong and Lee Vang. She is active in sports, dancing and singing, and was sponsored by Lao Family Community of Minnesota.
“Hmong and Lao culture are very similar and I want to learn more about the Lao culture and learn more about my own culture,” said stated Xiong in her contestant application.
Miss Ally Chanthalangsy was named the 2010 Miss Nang Sangkane, and also won the Best Looking Costume honors.
The First Runner Up was Joni Phiravanh, and the Second runner up was Jessica Xiong, who also won the Best Personality award.
The Miss Congeniality award went to Ashley Sengsavang. The Best Interview award went to Emily Souvannarath.
The afternoon events concluded with a Nang Sangkane farewell parade.
The large room of people walked two laps around the Amory floor to usher in the Nang Sangkane 2552.