By WUA XIONG
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (December 1, 2010) – The New Year is a time to celebrate and renew good blessings, and purge our selves of negative thoughts and events. It is a time to renew the spirit and bring in good luck for the next year. As the old people would say, be good, be honest, and don’t pout – so that for the rest of the year you will only have good virtues.
It is this message that seems to have gotten lost somewhere. The Hmong New Year has become an event, the New Year has lost it’s meaning. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood and perhaps assimilation into the United States, the meaning is gone.
For example, and it was all over the news a kid was stabbed at the New Year. Even though this is not the first time it may have happened, it should become the last. Perhaps a better look at what the New Year is all about will do well to prevent these tragic incidents that can destroy an otherwise great new beginning to the next year.
Regardless of your beliefs and opinions; trying to start the year out correct does not only lay with the Hmong New Year. If you look at the American New Year and others around the world the themes are similar in their purpose.
So why is the Hmong New Year in November?
Hmong people follow moon phases. We use the moon phases for a variety of cultural events such as weddings and of course the New Year. Specifically, we use the new moon phase to indicate a new cycle of the moon.
The meaning of celebrating the New Year in November is essentially stating that the harvest season is over and winter is coming – literally, the New Year. So for this year the new moon was November 6, 2010. And that my friends, is why the New Year starts in November.
The reason why we use Thanksgiving weekend as the New Year date is purely for convenience. To have a four-day holiday within weeks of the actual event is convenient for people to have time to travel and get together to celebrate.
It is important to note that the convenient date is for the public celebration, whereas the actual celebration is usually conduction already in the homes on the weekend of the actual New Year. The celebration at the Excel Center would be considered Part II of the Hmong New Year – the fun part.
What actually happens during family celebration at home follows something similar to this; the old year has to be thrown away and the New Year has to be brought in and accepted as if it is a gift.
The beginning of the ceremony is called the ‘cheb khawb’. These are the words to say that will send all negative things away with the old year, such as troublesome events and unnecessary drama. Which I know we can all use.
The next step of events would be to ‘nkaum toj qaib’, and this part involves the whole clan (or back in Laos the whole village of that mountain). The elder of the clan will again, rid families of illnesses that may come and negative elements that may arrive.
Back at home you have to call the spirits, ‘Hu plig’ and make sure that each member of your household has their spirit safe and still within them. Keep in mind that the spirit is different from ridding yourself of negative events.
And then you will eventually have to ‘laig dab’ or honor your ancestors with a meal. It is much like a prayer before a meal in Christian theology.
Ending the night with a ‘foob yeem’ or actually sealing or welding all negative things away not letting them near your house and your person.
The last step is actually in the morning. You will have to ‘tsa txhiaj meej’, which means to raise the spirit that guards your door to keep a watchful eye on what can enter through your doorway. The spirit shall only let in the good and keep the good and keep the evil and harmful away.
Hmong people believe that these spirits can protect them and help them avoid unnecessary injury.
For example, perhaps a person who is on a house robbing spree will unintentionally forget to rob your house. Or perhaps a storm that blew a tree onto a neighbor’s house – but the tree in your yard stood its ground.
We all have had those moments where if we had arrived a little earlier that car would have hit us – or if some odd event did not unfold the way it did that perhaps you would not be here today.
The Hmong New Year ceremony can become a complicated process and the process for each clan or household differs. But the main theme is to get rid of the old year’s problems and deflect new issues that may occur in the next year so that the New Year will be full of laughter and wellbeing.
So remember if you are having a bad year, it doesn’t hurt to get blessed by a Hmong elder. Have a safe and Happy New Year and don’t frown or you’ll be stuck like that for the rest of 2011.