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Hmong New Year Celebration at Merced Fairgrounds: ‘People Need to Know About Our Traditions’

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Hmong New Year celebrations help younger Hmong residents and others learn about the culture and keep it alive. (Shutterstock)
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The aromas, flavors, and traditional garments of the Hmong culture will be on display this weekend at the Merced Hmong New Year Celebration 2023-2024.

Christian De Jesus Betancourt Portrait

Christian De Jesus Betancourt

Central Valley Journalism Collaborative

Sponsored by the Merced Lao Family Community, Inc. (MLFC), the event is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, Dec. 15-17, at the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Way.

Board Member Koau Yang, whose involvement with MLFC started in 1983, said the celebration helps younger Hmong residents and others learn about the culture and keep it alive.

“It is important for other people to know about the different celebrations and customs,” said Yang. “People need to know about our traditions.”

The clothing is known for its distinctive, highly embellished needlework — also known as Paj Ntaub or flower cloth.

The three-day celebration will feature events from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturday, an indoor after-party at 6 p.m. will feature live music and dance with the Lavee Band.

Events for the traditional ceremony include Lwm Sub— a spiritual ceremony bidding farewell to the old year while welcoming the new one. There’s also the soul-calling custom called Hu Plig and Hub Dab Qhuas Los Noj, which is the offering of foods to ancestral spirits.

Contemporary events include ball tossing, a pageant, dances, and sports like soccer, spin top, Ka To, and volleyball.

About 8,000 Hmong Live in Merced

Many of the Hmong people came to Merced and the Valley in the mid-1970s after the Secret War in Laos made a third of the country’s population flee the country into Thailand, with many going to Canada, France, and the U.S. About 8,000 Hmong people continue to thrive and live in Merced, said Yang.

MLFC was founded in 1981 as a nonprofit organization to assist refugees who fled the Vietnam War — many from Lao, Thai, Hmong, Vietnamese, and Mien descent. The organization provides social work assistance, adult and youth programs in arts and education plus cultural programs.

“It’s for everyone in Merced County,” Yang said. “Our organization is here to provide help for other people. I want to help people; whoever needs help, I’m willing to help. That’s my goal.”

The cost of admission is $5. Plenty of events and food vendors, including Yang’s favorite fish and noodles, will be available for the event, which is open to anyone interested in learning more about the culture.

For more information, call (209) 384-7384.

About the Author

Christian De Jesus Betancourt is the bilingual communities reporter for Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit newsroom based in Merced. 

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