Hmong Culture Day took place in the CSU Ballroom on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. It was an event created to bring Hmong students together and share the Hmong culture with the public. The Hmong people originated from southeast Asia and immigrated to the United States in the 1970s as refugees after the Vietnam War and the Secret War.
The Hmong Culture Day celebrated the resilience of the Hmong people in working their way up in the United States from oppression, poverty, and lack of education, to college students and professionals in a wide variety of fields.
The night was also a celebration of the Hmong New Year, which, according to Pinky Lor, the Cultural Coordinator for the Hmong Student Association, is “usually towards the end of the year. There’s not really a set date.”
The night was a bit different than a traditional New Year celebration, as explained by Lor, “Traditionally, if you go to Laos or Thailand, the New Year is taking place outside. You do ball tossing, there’s music going on, and performances.”
The night was very enlightening to a person who is not Hmong, as the language, food, stories, dances, songs, and even a play from the Hmong culture were presented. The Hmong language is tonal, meaning that vowels are pronounced in a wide variety of ways to produce different meanings.
The speakers at the event first announced in Hmong and then translated into English, transporting the typical Minnesotan to another world. Many of the Hmong people at the event were wearing traditional clothing, some hand-made by their grandparents or other ancestors. The clothes were bright and colorful, and some were jingling and glittering. One of the dances, Xyoob Qeeg Ncha, featured Hmong playing instruments which, according to Lor, are called “qeej” and made out of wood or bamboo.
“It’s a traditional Hmong instrumental. It’s played during the New Year and during celebrations, and also funerals,” Lor said. The food was presented in a dinner during intermission and included rice, sausage, and sugary bubble tea.
Tou Ger Xiong, a Hmong activist and comedian, was the keynote speaker at the event. Nai CJ Pang, the President of the Hmong Student Association, appreciated his presence at the event. “I think what I enjoyed the most was just having everybody there, having fun, and I think our keynote speaker that we had, he was really engaging,” Pang said.
The support which Hmong people have for each other was evident at the event. Pang explained, “A lot of people drove two to four hours from St. Paul, St. Cloud, or Duluth to attend the event. I feel really accomplished just because I believe this year we had the most outsiders come from outside of Minnesota State University, Mankato, or just Mankato in general, to come and support our event.”
The Hmong Culture Day helped bring about a sense of community among Hmong people and to inspire them and all of us to do great things and to be proud of who we are.