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Letter to the Editor
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Hmong New Year: A chance to appreciate my culture

There are only five Hmong students at my school; four of them are my siblings. I attend a white-majority school and, when it comes to big, cultural events, it sometimes feels like I’m an outsider in certain regards.

With a Hmong background, I see the world in a different light from my peers. For one, I have a culture that has certain ceremonies based on generations of practice. My parents also rigorously teach us to further carry on this traditional attitude.

But, because an average student spends seven hours surrounded by schoolmates, I am constantly around American habits. Though it is not a negative influence, they contrast greatly from the strict Hmong customs I find waiting me at home.

Because of this, it is no wonder that there is always an awkward atmosphere at home when the Hmong New Year festival begins, Dec. 26. Being around Hmong people is not an opportunity that my family often gets and, with a showcase of hundreds of tents, we got to see the different items sold, all of which are Hmong-related. These products range from classical music instruments to Hmong-dubbed English movies.

When I was young, I often struggled to understand the reason why we attended. With only three weeks off for Christmas break, I used to consider going to this festival a waste of time. There are multiple reasons why. One is the loud, annoying music that tents would blast to promote their CDs. Another is the long hours we would spend at the festival, miserable because of either the heavy, burnt smell of barbecue or how crowded the place was. Upon returning home, my brothers and I would swear not attend the following year.

However, I always tolerated going, and soon enough the festival’s strange aspects attracted me more every year. While there, I get to experience my culture to its fullest extent. I also get the chance to be surrounded by my people and meet distant cousins for the first time.

I no longer see the blaring music as an annoyance, rather I hear distinct tunes and take pride knowing that our people produce several genres of music. At the festival, our history is displayed. Through the efforts of great historians, countless myths, legends and cultural habits have been recorded in several novels or documentaries.

Hmong leaders also hold assemblies in the center of the festival. In the past, I despised standing and listening to these people talk about their hopes and dreams. But, nowadays, I’ve realized that those speeches were all directed to us — to kids who walked idly by, unconscious of the great expectations their elders had in them.

Back then I should have stood like I do now, listening to the people speak of their experiences in this new world. I should have understood that they wanted to encourage us to also become future leaders. If I had done this, I would have probably heard speeches by even greater leaders.

This was my last year of experiencing the festival as a high school student. I look back now and regret my perspective of the event in the past. For one, I never participated in Pov Pob, the tennis ball throwing game between two random strangers. I am remorseful that I did not spend more time at the festival, surrounded by family and culture, where I felt unrestricted from the expectations of my white friends.

Who knows how college will change my outlook on life and my culture in the year to come. With only seven days out of 365 to experience such an event, I should have dove deeper into understanding the traditions of my culture.

Therefore, my New Year resolution is not to lose weight. Nor is it to finish reading the long list of Pulitzer Prize novels I have on my computer. Instead, I want to put in time to appreciate my culture, to live in this Hmong world just a little bit longer.

So, Nyob Zoo Xyoo Tshiab (Happy New Year)!

For more columns, read the Jan. 9 article, A day with ABC 30, ‘start to finish’.

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  • L

    Logan RoodJan 27, 2012 at 12:02 am

    I love the title of this article! It’s my favorite song! I never knew Trevor had it in him to dance like that. It was hilarious! The fashion show was my favorite by far.

  • A

    Annalise RosikJan 27, 2012 at 12:02 am

    First of all this photo title is brilliant. And if Trevor dances even the slightest bit like that for the King dance it is sure to be hilarious. Oh my.