Enhancing the quality of life for all refugees from Burma in Minnesota
Celebrating Karen New Year 2753
January 4, 2014 marked this year's Karen New Year celebration at Parkview Center School in Roseville. Over 1,500 people ventured out this New Year, many of them in their finest traditional Karen attire. The school gym was packed with kids young and old, and both Karen and non-Karen families all out to celebrate Karen New Year.
The event itself was organized by Karen community leaders, with the generous support of many local sponsors including Gold Sponsor Hmong Village and Silver Sponsors Heritage Home Health Care, International Institute of Minnesota, and Lexdan Automotive. Part of the mission in holding this event was not only to celebrate the holiday but also to honor and share Karen culture. Along with the singing, dancing, and words of wisdom was a presentation on Karen history and their transition to the U.S.
A ceremony of appreciation for Karen community elders began the program in an honorable display of a handmade necklace, gifts, and song by Karen youth. The singing acts were carried throughout the event, a treat to the ears for all audience members. Following the singing were statements given by Karen community leaders. Each conveyed positive words for the New Year along with sincere appreciation to the state of MN for allowing the Karen community to make a home here.
Nay Htoo, President of the Karen Community of Minnesota and one of the event's main organizers, read statements received from the leaders back in Burma as well as his own advice to the community on the importance of maintaining tradition and teaching it to the next generation. Chong Vang, Executive Director of KOM, spoke on the importance of unity within the Karen community, and encouragement of giving back and helping each other out. A resounding theme of this New Year can be summed up in the statement given by Nay Htoo-"Karen help Karen."
The ceremony concluded with Karen don dancing in which numerous groups performed this traditional style of dance. Ladies moved gracefully in colorful attire with the men complimenting their movements, never breaking pace and always smiling. The Karen Culture Organization, the largest of the dance groups to perform, executed a routine lasting over 15 minutes and taking up half of the gym to do so! One of KOM's staff, Ko Nay Oo, helped lead the drum line in the back, a foundation of traditional don dancing.
This year's new addition to the program included various raffle prizes which were a huge hit with attendees. The winners went home with everything from a rice cooker, to a new flat screen T.V., to a laptop. What was noticeable about the raffle was that the Karen were excited for those who won. They weren't mad or disappointed, but rather happy and enthusiastic for them; this is a lesson we all can take from the Karen New Year celebration 2014.
A community that is unified is a community that prospers.
On behalf of the Karen community, we would like to thank our generous sponsors who have allowed this event to happen: