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About Hmong

Updated: May 4, 2022

In Honor of Hmong Heritage Month, we would like to share a paper written by our President's daughter, Fayth Yang (10 yrs old).


Introduction

What is Hmong you might ask? Well Hmong is an ethnic group from Asia. They originally migrated from China and into Laos and Thailand all over the world. In this article I will talk about the clothes/outfits, foods, and The Hmong New Year. You might also wonder why these topics, well because Hmong clothes/outfits are what symbolizes the Culture Region, food is not just used for eating, but for an offering to ancestors and spirits, and The Hmong New Year is for welcoming a new beginning. Please enjoy reading this article.


Hmong Clothes and Outfits


Hmong clothes/outfits are very unique: the patterns, the ways they are made, the style, colors, the hats, and the fabric. These are one of the unique ways Hmong clothes are made. There are no “Ugly” Hmong clothes. They are just very unique and different. Hmong clothes are very hard to make, take a long time to make, and require help from family. Why it takes so long to make them is because they don’t want to mess up on making the Hmong clothes and because it’s handmade. The fabric that makes the hmong clothes is called Hemp. The Hemp is what you need to weave and make Hmong clothes. Hemp is an important product in hmong clothes.



Techniques that are traditional in Hmong textiles are embroidery, appliqué, reverse appliqué, and batik. These techniques were passed down through generations of hmong women. Hmong embroidery is used as a form of decoration on clothing to make it bright and beautiful. Hmong embroidery includes bright colors like pinks, reds, greens, as well as blues, and is sometimes used to contrast with the colors of yellow and brown overlaid with white.


Hmong Textile


This is about the war, in which many Hmong people died.


Appliqué and reverse appliqué are similar but different at the same time. Appliqué is a design that’s placed on top of the background fabric and sewn in place. As for reverse appliqué, the fabric is layered and the top fabric is cut away and stitched in place to reveal the design. Reverse appliqué enables complex designs with thin edges of appliqué. That would be difficult to do with other appliqué techniques. If you could see and feel one right now you will see so many colors and feel the strings overlap each other and the details in each appliqué.


Hmong Dress


Batik is a wax resistant dye technique. Traditionally, motifs are drawn with wax onto hand spun hemp then dyed with indigo creating an indigo blue cloth with a white pattern. These textiles are a visual storytelling device for Hmong people who have no written language. The Batik method is popularly used to create fabrics for clothing and household decor. Hmong people don’t have a written language so they use symbols. These symbols are throughout their batik cloth patterns and designs and in their embroidery.


Hmong symbols are special, they all have their own meaning and looks. Most Hmong symbols are seen on hmong embroidery and story cloths. Long ago when the Hmong were still concentrated in China, they were forbidden to use their original, written language, which was made up of picture symbols. So the women started sewing symbols into their skirts to create messages, disguising them as patterns.


The Hmong Symbol

Elephant’s foot


All Hmong outfits/clothes were very different. In the olden days you can tell who a Hmong person is, by their Hmong outfits. However, now you just wear the Hmong outfits you buy for 100-600 dollars. Some Hmong families still wear the Hmong outfits that go with their region. Did you know that there are 18 main clans? They are: Chang/Cha, Cheng, Chue, Fang, Her, Hang, Khang, Kong, Kue(Kwm) Lee/Ly, Lor/Lo(Lauj), Moua, Pha, Thao, Vang(Vaaj), Vue(Vwj), Xiong, and Yang(Yaaj).


Hmong Dress


Hmong Foods


You might think Hmong food is a type of food, but the truth is that it’s a philosophy of food. Hmong have special sections on cooking techniques, ingredients definitions and eating etiquette.


Nav Vab


Hmong have their own traditionally/specially made foods. Most Hmong foods I have eaten have meat. Hmong meals mainly contain rice, chicken, beef, and eggs. Fruit and vegetables are also identified. When shaman Hmong families have something special for someone they use certain foods as an offering to the spirits and ancestors. Hmong people don’t really eat dessert often, but they do have dessert like Nab Vam (Na Va), Jello, Lotus Flower Blossom cookie. Sense Hmong people used to live in the mountains and it was cold in the mountains. They needed foods that were hot, so they ate Pho and Khaub Poob. A snack they would eat is Mov Neuav Qos Ntoo translated as Sticky Rice Cakes. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people have seen or eaten egg rolls because egg rolls are the most common Hmong food that you can find in every Hmong restaurant or shop. Did you know that people can make 35 million dollars each year by selling egg rolls?


Egg Rolls


According to https://hmongtimes.com/hmong something traditional Hmong people do is when a Hmong woman just gave birth they have to complete a very strict 30 day diet. That’s the same dish every meal, it may sound like a punishment but it's not. The purpose of the Hmong postpartum diet is to help cleanse and heal the body after labor. The diet consists of three servings of freshly made boiled chicken and broth made with special Hmong herbs that are grown specifically for postpartum care with a side of fresh rice each day. It’s believed that consuming old aged chicken can cause chest pain later on in life, so serving a woman young chicken is important. The Hmong postpartum diet is very important because there’s an emphasis on fresh/hot food and water because Hmong people believe that it will help the body get rid of childbirth blood and bring in new blood, which will help the mother regain her energy.


Hmong New Year


Hmong New Year is very special to Hmong people. In the olden days when Hmong people had to travel, it would take them a long time to get to the Hmong New Year and they had to wear Hmong outfits. But the Hmong New Year would last 7 days so I wouldn’t worry in my opinion. The Hmong new year was created to give thanks to ancestors and spirits as well as to welcome in a new beginning. It is also a time of year where Hmong people gather with family and meet with relatives from other regions. The Hmong new year has entertainment such as Hmong dancing competition, Hmong Beauty Pageant, and pov pob (ball toss).


Hmong dancers


In the olden days and now pov pob is still used as to get to know each other, make friends, and maybe even date. When people pov pob it’s usually one boy and one girl but sometimes it’s one girl and one girl, it’s not likely for a boy and a boy to pov pob with each other. There are two ways of pov pob, one way is to just talk to each other while you toss the ball. Another way is when one person doesn’t catch the ball they have to give the other person something, it could be anything like money, bracelets, and earrings and that’s called pov pob swb (ball toss lose).


A boy and a girl Pov pob together


Other than the entertainment they also sell Hmong clothes, food, and toys, but that was now. When my grandparents were young there were no Hmong clothes, no food, and no toys that were there to sell. Back then people from different villages would come and stay over with their relatives or people with the same last name as them. And the people would cook for them for free and they Could stay for weeks.


Conclusion


Somewhere along the line my culture is still changing. To the readers reading this, this is not fully accurate because Hmong history is not written, it is passed down from generation to generation word of mouth. I hope you learned a lot about Hmong clothes, Foods, and The Hmong New Year. Thank you for reading this article.






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Alfredo Cerrato
Alfredo Cerrato
01 Nis 2022

Great Article, Faith! I think you may have a career as a writer.. I learned so much. Thank you!

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