New Year, New Location

annual Hmong cultural celebration has new home

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

For landlocked Midwesterners, Eau Claire’s annual Hmong New Year Celebration is the equivalent of an instantaneous international flight to a place filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of a distant land. This year, the celebration will be Nov. 14-15 at the Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center. (Take note of the location: The gathering had been at UW-Eau Claire for the past 27 years.) In Laos, the Hmong celebrate New Year to coincide with the end of the annual rice harvest. As with harvest festivals around the world, the emphasis is on food, fun, and fellowship. For starters, that means sampling the fragrant cuisine and sipping on a colorful bubble tea. Be sure to browse the arts and crafts vendors, take part in Hmong games (such as the ball-toss game, pov pob), and watch the fashion show as well as dance and musical performances. All around, you’ll see a multigenerational crowd of Hmong residents dress in traditional clothing, much of it decorated with intricate paj ntaub embroidery, bold patterns, bright colors, and jangling silver coins. In Hmong culture, the New Year is a time to cast away old habits and adopt better ones. Even those of us who aren’t Hmong can take the opportunity to find a new habit: Making the Hmong New Year Celebration an annual tradition.

Hmong New Year Celebration • Saturday, Nov. 14, 8am-5pm and 7pm-midnight; Sunday, Nov. 15, 8am-5pm • Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center, 3456 Craig Road, Eau Claire • $3 general admission; evening entertainment $5 in advance, $7 at door • free for 65 and older and 7 and younger •