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Nov 23, 2022

Ringing in Hmong New Year

Ever since she was a little girl, Liz Xiong always had fond memories of Hmong New Year. As a member of the Hmong community, Xiong, Chair of the Visit Saint Paul Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, experienced at a young age how her culture celebrates this important holiday. Usually on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Xiong and her family would get dressed up in traditional Hmong clothes early in the morning and then head over to Roy Wilkins Auditorium (the location of Hmong New Year before Saint Paul RiverCentre). Jam-packed with families from the hallways to the main stage, they made their way through State Fair-like traffic to the floor to begin celebrating with the community.

This year will mark the 42nd Hmong New Year celebration in Saint Paul and will be held at Saint Paul RiverCentre on November 26 and 27.

If you are going to Hmong New Year for the first time or returning for an annual tradition, Xiong gave a few tips on what to see and do. First, get your hands on some traditional Hmong clothing or jewelry. Anything from a vintage coin sash to a head-to-toe modern outfit.

For cuisine, try items such as sticky rice, chicken legs, Hmong sausage, and a tri-color dessert that consists of tapioca and coconut milk. There are also several arts and crafts vendors, along with a ball-tossing game on the convention floor that is known for its courtship. The game, which is a simple ball toss back and forth with a partner (typically of the opposite gender), can be anywhere from a mild, casual toss to a high-speed competitive throw, intending to have the partner drop the ball. In the Hmong community, Xiong said several romantic relationships have actually started from the ball toss.

If you are someone who likes shorter lines and more space to walk, plan to go earlier in the morning. If you are someone who loves to come during peak times, plan to attend anytime from noon to 5 p.m. And if you are someone who enjoys seeing dancing, singing and pageant competitions, come Saturday night.            

Hmong New Year initially started as a harvest festival to celebrate a year of hard work in the fields and good luck for the next year, with a break to rest and rejuvenate. This annual event is not just significant for the Hmong community in Minnesota, which is home to approximately 80,000 Hmong people, according to Minnesota Compass, but it brings in families from all around the country and even the world.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Hmong New Year was on hiatus for the past few years. But now the celebration is back. “Being back after the pandemic, I think this event underlines how precious and unique our community is,” Xiong said. “We are grateful we get to use this amazing venue (Saint Paul RiverCentre) every year. Saint Paul is the Hmong cornerstone of the U.S.”

As Xiong looks forward to yet another Hmong New Year celebration, she is grateful her two kids can also experience what she did every year as a child. “It is very special to have them exposed to their history and culture,” Xiong said. “The New Year celebration plays a big part for the younger generation.”

The event hours are 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tickets are available at the door on November 26 and 27 for $12 (cash) or $12.42 (credit card). Kids 42” and below are free and measured at the door. Seniors 65+ must present ID at the box office for a free ticket.