Being Hmong

Friday, July 25, 2008

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The Start

The ancestors of the Hmong dated back about 5000 years ago. The Hmongs lived along the lower reaches of the Yellow River in China. There was a time where the Hmongs controlled a region of China. War and persecution broken out against the Hmong people and they were focused out to another country or to be enslave by the Chinese. The Hmongs traveled to the mountains of Laos. From there, they lived in peace for many years until the Vietnam War.

Many families were separated or killed during the process of the war. American came to aid so that Laos does not become a Communist country. After years of fighting with the Americans, the Americans left Laos and Laos became a Communist country. Since the Hmonsg helped the Americans, they had to leave Laos or there will be punishments. Approximately 30,000 or more Hmongs were killed in the Vietnam War. It was a depressing period because many wives became widows, many children became orphans, and many that were killed became lost souls in Laos. The only way to escape was to cross the Mekong River to Thailand.

From Thailand, many lost families were reunited, if they were lucky. The Hmongs were put into concentration camps and had to await for a sponsor from the United States to adopt them. The Hmongs knew that American was where they can live free. This was how the first group of Hmongs came to America.

The word Hmong means free people. The Hmongs wanted to be free and able to do whatever they may without getting punished or in trouble. For this reason, the Hmongs migrated from China to Laos for freedom. Then came the war and the war took their freedom away. Afterward, the Hmongs came to America for a better life. There are many Hmongs living in the States now. There is a greater population in California, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. In California, there are more Hmongs in Merced, Fresno, and Sacramento. The University of California Davis has more Hmong students than any university in California. Hmong boys and girls had different roles. Being a Hmong girl means waking up early and help prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also means cleaning up and taking care of the parents or elders. A Hmong boy does nothing but take responsibility for the family's actions and help set up ceremonies and parties. The Hmong people are very traditional. We have very strong family morals and values.

The Hmong culture is very elaborated. There are different ceremonies for different events. In the culture, there is the Hmong wedding, funerals, and rituals. These are kept scared to the Hmongs.

Wedding ceremony

A Hmong wedding is long process. If a Hmong boy wants to marry a Hmong girl, the boy must pay a dowry to her parents. He must ask permission to marry her. He must come to her house and ask for her hand in marriage. Sometimes, this does not happened at all. The reasons are because the couple ran away together or the daughter was kidnapped. The boy can kidnapped the daughter and she will be focus to marry him. Then the boy will call his uncles and relatives to prepare a negotiation meeting. The meeting will be about how much the parents are willing to sell their daughter to the boy. If the young girl is educated, the dowry may be ten thousand. If she is not educated, she may be worth five grand. If she is pregnant, her dowry may be lower because she got pregnant before she got married to the boy. After the negotiation meeting, the families will start the preparation for the wedding. The party will start at the girl's house. The girl's relatives will make the new brother in law drink alot of alcohol. While this is occurring, the girl's mom dresses her up in traditional Hmong clothing. After that, the daughter will join her husband and they will drink together. The party is over when it is time to say goodbye to the daughter and new brother in law. This time is so sad because the mom is letting go of her baby and the daughter is letting go of her youth. The young lady and man are dressed up in the traditional Hmong clothes. The party may stop at the daughter's house but there is more partying at the son's house. His relatives are waiting for him to bring home his new bride. It is really exciting because the families are celebrating a new beginning. This is what goes on in a Hmong wedding ceremony.


During Hmong funerals, it is longer than wedding ceremonies. When a elder dies, the funeral lasts for three days. If a young baby or adult passed away, the funeral is one to to days long. The reason is because the babies or young adults did not get to live their lives to the fullness. So, their spirits can travel fast to be reincarnate into another human being, again. A elder's funeral deals with the family sacrificing cows, pigs, and chickens. The amount of cows, pigs, and chickens killed will indicate how wealthy he or she will become in their next life. Also, it tells the dead person how much his or her family loved him or her. The dead person is dressed in traditional dead clothing. On the first day there will be mourning for the dead. The family will gather around the body and cried out because they miss the friend. The second day will continued like the first day but at night the spirit will be released to start their journey of the dead. They will travel and meet many old friends and their parents. Afterward, they travel to the end to be reborn.


Traditional Hmong rituals are very important to the family. Hmongs have these rituals to stay healthier and happy. For example, if a adult is sick and there is no reason why this person is sick. The parents or relatives will call a shaman to seek answers from the ancestors. The shaman will travel to the dead world and ask why the person on Earth is sick. The shaman will dress in his traditional shaman clothes and start to be in a trance. He will start to shake and say scared words to the dead. The dead will hear it and send his spirit to go speak with them. The dead will tell him why this person is sick and the shaman will deliver the answer to the family. A shaman can be a man or woman, but the person must be chosen or selected by the ancestors. There are other rituals than the calling of the spirits. When a woman gives birth to a new baby, the family will call the spirits to let them know that their baby is here. Another ceremony is when the couple has given birth to their first baby, the spirits will give them elder names and they will no longer use their young names. One of the last ceremonies are when the family is celebrating for the new year. The family will kill a chicken and feed it to the ancestors. The family will wish for better health and wealth. These are the rituals that occurs in the Hmong culture.


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