Pandemic cancels Hmong New Year festival, but it lives on in these memories

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For a community devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hmong New Year comes at an opportune time. Hmong families across the world will spend this next week performing rituals at home to cleanse themselves from last year’s bad luck in hopes of a healthier, more prosperous new year.

The Hmong New Year festival in Saint Paul, which in past years has drawn up to 60,000 people, was cancelled this year. Hmong people from across the country would travel to Minnesota for the festival for games, food and merchandise vendors, dance competitions, and a beauty pageant at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

Mee Vang, vice chair of the United Hmong Family, Inc., said organizers decided to cancel the event in June due to the pandemic. Vang said the organization knew it would have to cancel Hmong New Year after another large Hmong cultural event this summer—the Hmong International Freedom Festival, known as J4—was canceled.

But festival or no festival, the New Year will come. We asked members of the Hmong community to share some of their memories of the festival—along with a photo—in hopes that their own fond memories may provide some solace to Hmong families who cannot celebrate together this year.

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