The UCSB Hmong Student Union celebrated its New Year on Saturday at Girsh Park in Goleta.
The Hmong New Year, which is annually celebrated in Santa Barbara during the second weekend in September, is a time for Hmong people to revisit the traditions and customs of their ancestors.
Hmong people originally lived in China and then immigrated to Laos. After the Vietnam War, they were persecuted for aiding United States troops, and a large number fled to refugee camps in Thailand, where they were then shipped to California.
New Year festivities traditionally celebrated the end of the harvest and created an opportunity for village youth to meet each other.
“Most marriages were formed during this three-day holiday. The Hmong did not approve of physical contact so the youth would play ‘pobpov’ (ball tossing) to get to know each other since holding hands and kissing were not permitted,” HSU President Malisa Lee said.
The majority of these traditions are not practiced anymore. In Santa Barbara, the celebration is now filled with traditional singing, dancing and guest speakers, as well as food and refreshments to commemorate the Hmong ancestors and heritage. The largest Hmong New Year celebration in California takes place in Fresno from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. This celebration is more characteristic of traditional practice, as multitudes of Hmong people socialize and feast together in one or two large houses.
The HSU is in its 15th year on campus and has 10 members. They received funding support from Associated Students, the Educational Opportunity Program and Community Affairs Board to help pay for their festival, which drew a large crowd.
“The festival went really well. About 300-400 people attended and there was a lot more variety this year in the performances and activities,” senior Asian American and business economics major Va Vue said.
– Shana Smith