Hmong women student group celebrates, challenges tradition with New Year celebration

Viivncaus, a UMN Hmong women student group, hosted a Hmong New Year celebration on Friday.

Cre.Ture Crew performs during the Hmong New Year event at the St. Paul Student Center on Friday, Nov. 8. The majority of the group’s performers are high school students. 

Nur B. Adam

Cre.Ture Crew performs during the Hmong New Year event at the St. Paul Student Center on Friday, Nov. 8. The majority of the group’s performers are high school students. 

Farrah Mina

More than 200 people gathered at the University of Minnesota Friday to attend a Hmong New Year celebration hosted by Viivncaus, a Hmong women’s student group. 

The Hmong New Year is a traditional celebration marked by a resting period at the end of the harvest season, taking place in areas where Hmong communities are located. Traditionally, the New Year is a time for members of the Hmong community to cleanse themselves and their homes from bad spirits and experiences, bringing in a new energy for the year ahead.

The theme of the event was hnub tshiab, or a new day, and was intended to empower the community’s youth. 

“Just like how we’ve gone through many things and we’ve become so resilient, we can also use that as a way to help the youth,” said Gao Shee Her, a Viivncaus board member. “…We believe that the youth can also do what they want and achieve their goals and dreams.” 

By hosting the event as a women’s group, Viivncaus is challenging what is historically a predominantly male-led celebration. 

“In the Hmong culture, we’re kind of a patriarchal culture,” Her said. “…Most cultural events that Hmong people have are usually planned or hosted by men … and very little women get to hold a leadership role.” 

The event is Viivncaus’ second year hosting its own Hmong New Year celebration.

“For Viivncaus, it’s a way of taking that back and just orchestrating this all themselves as empowered Hmong women,” said Houa Moua, an attendee and an active member of the group.

Many attendees wore traditional Hmong attire — some of which featured silver coins, embroidery and deep hues of indigo and pink. Several performers took the stage for the evening, including a Hmong folk singer, dance groups and a yo-yoer.

One of the traditions Moua values this time of year is her dad leaving place settings at the table in remembrance of her grandparents. For 17 years, Moua’s dad has left a space at the table for her grandmother since her death.

“It’s really important to me because my grandparents were a really big part of my life,” Moua said. “…In that way I feel like my grandparents are also celebrating the New Year with us.”

Though the event was attended by many members of the Hmong community, for some attendees, it was a first introduction to Hmong culture and tradition. 

“I hope that it will build a community and just having it grow bigger so that we can all be more connected,” said third-year student Triniti Thao.

It is important to have spaces like these so Hmong students can learn and grow in their heritage, Moua said.

“This is a way of bringing the broader Hmong students together and learn about history, learn about culture— and celebrate it,” Moua said.