By Loie Mead
In November, Portland Baha’i Karen Thomas and William Thomas responded to an invitation from the Vue Family of Portland, OR. This reporter accompanied them. The invitation was announced in early November to the Baha’is of Portland to attend the Annual Family “Noj Tshiab” Dinner set for Margaret Scott Elementary on Sat., Nov. 19. (“Noj Tshiab” is Hmong for New Year’s Eve Dinner.) Guests were asked to bring their “dancing shoes”.
Karen and William arrived in the school gym and soon discovered the sumptuous buffet of rice, vegetable salad, salad roll, Pa Thai noodle, exquisite dishes made with fresh beef, topped off by “na va” dessert. Live musicians were playing lively, danceable music and the dance floor at one end of the gym was equally alive with young dancers. Everyone — young and old, was moved by the music to join in each dance …little children, too! With his guitar, Long Vue (one of the hosts) eagerly joined in the music.
Koneng Vue, a member of the hosting family, shares cultural background of the Hmong people:
“In the Hmong culture, New Year is celebrated at the end of December to early January. Historically Hmong New Year starts with a New Year Eve dinner, followed by several weeks of community fun activities. New Year Eve dinner is when family prepares food and share with other families and friends to celebrate the hard year’s work, and hope for a more prosperous year. Today, with busy schedules and no “free space” to host the traditionally weeks-long celebration, the combined family “Noj Tshiab” dinner and entertainment symbolizes cherished traditional values as well as create an environment for both young and old to come together. “Noj Tshiab” dinner is the least that today’s Hmong community can do to educate their children about treasured Hmong culture, bring youth and adults together through fun dinner activities, and preserve the value of families (binded by clan name or relationships) helping each other to purchase and prepare food, and share with the larger community – friends and families from near and afar – at no cost to the guests, except a curious intention to enjoy…each other’s presence (life), what are on the dinner table, the air, and the laughter of youth and adults harmonizing the differences (or “gap”) of growing in a different time and place.”
In Koneng’s description can be seen the light of unity promised by Abdu’l-Baha in London, England in 1911-12. At the age of 67, He made His journey from Akka (the prison city of the Ottoman Empire) to western Europe and North America to advance the unity of all peoples. He promised that:
“The darkness of suppression will disappear and the light of unity will shine. We cannot bring love and unity to pass merely by talking of it. Knowledge is not enough. Wealth, science, education are good, we know: but we must also work and study to bring to maturity the fruit of knowledge.”
(Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 54)
With gratitude to the Vues and their extended families, we share with you and many readers this celebration of unity.
A Happy Hmong/Mong New Year to all!