Hmong New Year Celebration back in St. Paul after pandemic hiatus

St. Paul is home to the largest urban Hmong population in the world, and on Saturday, thousands came together to honor their vibrant culture at the Minnesota Hmong New Year Celebration. 

For the first time since COVID-19, the event is back in-person at the St. Paul RiverCentre, with some waiting hours to get in. 

"Having a two-year break and having it come back again this year has been great. We have record-breaking numbers," said Kong Houa Lee with United Hmong Family, the non-profit group that puts on the event. 

"We did not expect this crowd. We did not expect people to be waiting in line for 3 hours," said the President of United Hmong Family, Mee Vang. 

The annual celebration is a chance to honor and remember the past, while giving thanks for the harvest each fall. 

"We come at a time where its remembrance, but at the same time, it's about who we are as Minnesotans and really embracing being Hmong Americans," said Vang.

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It also provides an opportunity to showcase traditions, like ornate, handmade outfits and games, to those in the Hmong community and beyond. 

Preserving cultural identity and celebrating heritage is one of the cornerstones of Vang's work with the United Hmong Family. She hopes the celebration helps instill a sense of pride in younger generations. 

"When they say, 'Who are we?' Their parents say, 'You are Hmong'...that they can resonate and say, 'I am Hmong, and I am proud,'" said Vang. 

The celebration will continue on Sunday and runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door, and all are welcome.