In a vibrant display of culture and community, SHE Pab: Voices of Hmong Women celebrated Hmong New Year on December 3, 2023 in Coeur de Catherine’s Rauenhorst Ballroom. After a 10-year hiatus, the event made a triumphant return for the 2022 celebration, and this year's 2023-24 board members continued the tradition with a blend of familiar elements and new additions.
Founded in 2012, SHE Pab: Voices of Hmong Women is a student-led organization that highlights Hmong narratives, encourages conversations, and empowers members through community-building initiatives. The club board collaborated with the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Faculty and Staff (BIPOC FS) committee to plan a joyful return to New Year's.
MCs Gaozong Xiong ’23 and Houa Pha started the evening with introductions, followed by a fashion show of Hmong clothing. Traditional garments represented Hmong history and heritage, while more modern clothing represented the diversity and creativity among the community. “Hmong people migrated to the United States in the late 1900s and early 2000s, and we have migrated other cultures into our very own culture,” said Vanessa Vang '26, the SHE Pab internal public relations board member.
Dancers, and singers of various ages graced the stage, in addition to two special guest speakers: Maikou Vu, one of the founders of SHE Pab, and Leeanna Lor ’22, Miss Hmong Minnesota 2023 and previous member of SHE Pab. The club asked Vu and Lor to speak at the event because of their “big impact on the younger generation, specifically young Hmong girls,” Vang said. “They are such hard working individuals and are great role models for the youths in the Hmong community!”
Among the Hmong New Year activities featured at the event was courting. Also called ball tossing, the tradition involves participants tossing a ball as a way of expressing romantic interest, with communication often carried out through kwv txhiaj, a Hmong tradition of song poetry used for courting or entertainment.
The Hmong New Year was “a chance for Hmong people within the community to celebrate the ending of the year, to release all the tears and sweat from the hard work from the previous year, and (tos txais lub xyoo tshiab) welcome the new year with joy and smiles,” said Vang.
The SHE Pab Hmong New Year celebration not only honors tradition, but also serves as a testament to the resilience and vibrancy of the St. Kate’s Hmong community. As the event concluded with laughter, dance, and shared cultural experiences, it marked not just the start of a new year but a renewed commitment to celebrating heritage and fostering community bonds.
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Photos by lensbylena