The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Nyob Zoo Xyoo Tshiab!

Adrian Northrup

The decorations on the intricate Hmong clothing jingled as men and women threw balls back and forth in a game of courtship called Pov Pob Saturday as part of the Hmong New Year festivities.

As senior Phong Xiong watched the game, he reminisced about years past when he tossed the ball to a girl of interest to him.
“It was fun,” Xiong said. “I asked the girl that I liked.”

This game, combined with singing, dancing, shopping, sticky rice and other traditional foods, made up the 2006 Hmong New Year celebration Saturday and Sunday in the Olson Gym of McPhee Center, sponsored by The Hmong Mutual Assistance Association and UW-Eau Claire.

Upon arrival, the smell of sausage and chicken greeted guests, as the sound of singing and applause resonated from the lower level of the building, where the performances took place.

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The Hmong New Year is always during the second weekend in November, said Xue Xiong, 17, who was dressed in her colorful traditional clothing and played with her younger brother Touva, 9, near a vendor’s booth.

Xue Xiong said she always attends the celebration with her family and loves every minute of it.

“I really like it. It’s awesome,” she said. “You get to see so many of your friends from far away. It’s . a reunion.”

This celebration is a time for the Hmong to share traditions and pass them down to the children, Xue Xiong said, adding that her favorite aspects are Pov Pob and watching the dancing. In fact, she said she even danced in past years.

As Choua Chang, 15, stood with friends by the Pov Pob game, she said she enjoys coming to the celebration.

“I come every year. It’s tradition,” Chang said. “It’s basically Hmong culture getting together and remembering (their) culture. . You get to see everyone – people from out of town (and) new people.”

For close to 10 years the celebration has taken place on-campus, said Meng Xiong, the interpreter of the Hmong Association on-campus, adding that it is a time to celebrate traditions. This year hundreds packed into the building for the festivities.

He particularly noted one popular tradition: Pov Bov.

Meng Xiong said playing this game is more than just tossing a ball.

“Most of the people that go to New Years go to (date), to find a boy or girlfriend or find someone that they can spend the rest of their lives with,” he said. “It actually tells a lot about each person depending on how hard they throw the ball.”

If someone has a temper, he or she will throw the ball hard and fast, he said, whereas if someone is gentle, he or she will throw the ball softly.

“You get to know that person,” he said.

Besides this popular courtship tradition, Hmong merchants also set up shop around the upper level of the gym to sell a variety of Hmong paj ntaub, or arts and crafts. Hmong food, western clothes, children’s toys and Hmong music and videos were among the many items available. The children carried around their new toys as the adults examined the colorful clothing that hung from racks and the jewelry that was spread out on tables.

For a weekend, Olson Gym transforms into a cultural celebration. Although the party is over now, the phrase that they said over and over, “Nyob Zoo Xyoo Tshiab,” or “Happy New Year” signifies a brand new start.

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