Two Hmong men use a rice ponder to make the ncauv (rice cake).

The community is invited to join Hmong elders to enjoy beautiful Hmong cultural activities and delicious Hmong food as they celebrate Noj Tsiab – the Hmong pre-new year celebration – and Thanksgiving at the Hmoob Kaj Siab community center on Thursday, Nov. 14.

“We will have some great cultural performances. There will be some traditional singing and there will be some ball tossing, the traditional Hmong game played for the new year,” Peng Her, CEO of the Hmong Institute, tells Madison365. “We will have a recognition ceremony to recognize all of our volunteers and we will have a special announcement about a new partnership with the county that will be shared with folks in attendance.”Peng Her, the CEO of the Hmong Institute, and his wife Mai Zong Vue

The Hmong ball-tossing game pov pob is a common activity for adolescents and one of the most recognizable parts of the Hmong New Year celebration. Boys and girls form two separate lines in pairs that are directly facing one another toss a cloth ball (or tennis ball) back and forth.

“We will be having a fashion show, too. All of the Hmong elders are dressing up in their traditional Hmong costumes and we’re going to share what the costumes mean,” Her says. “Each region of Laos has its own ethnic tradition in their clothing so, depending on what area you are from, you will be wearing different clothes.

“If your clothes have stripes on your arms, for example, we know that you’re from a particular part of Laos,” he adds. “It’s a way to identify each other when you meet them just by seeing what clothes they are wearing.”

Noj tsiab is the family feast before the New Year. Special dishes are made to celebrate the day before the New Year as families, close relatives, and friends come together to give thanks for a good harvest, remember the old year, and welcome in the new year.

“The Noj tsiab is the pre-New Year dinner and traditionally its a time when close friends and family are invited to the person’s house or when the community comes together to organize this,” Her says. “It’s a combination of giving gratitude for a good harvest – it’s right after the harvest season – and remembering all of the good things that have happened.

Two women make eggrolls at the Hmoob Kaj Siab community center.

“It’s also a time to forget about all of the bad things that have happened,” Her adds. “It’s all about welcoming in the New Year so it’s generally done the night before. People are invited to make their favorite dish to share with people at the event. It’s also a time when a shaman or the oldest person in the village welcomes the spirit of the new year to come to the house or village and bless the house or village.”

In September of 2018 the Journey Mental Health Center decided it would be discontinuing programming at the Kajsiab House, a place of refuge for many of the Hmong elders who escaped war-torn nations and built new lives from scratch in the United States. Hmong leaders were able to come together to raise over $130,000 to keep the services going.

“It’s almost been a year ago that Journey decided to close us down and within one year we’ve been able to find a new location and get funding from both the city and the county and get the support to continue the services that are needed and keeping the staff employed,” Her says of the Hmoob Kaj Siab community center. “Transition is tough and challenging but we’ve been able to do that. And the Hmong elders are happy and fortunate that the Hmong Institute has been able to continue to keep Hmoob Kaj Siab open and available to the community.”

The elders at Hmoob Kaj Siab have been busy practicing their cultural performances, Her says, and are excited about the dishes they will bring for the event.  One tradition from the Hmong New Year is Hu Plig, plain hard-boiled eggs are cooked, representing both blessings for the living and as offerings to the hungry departed.

“We also have boiled eggs that we will hand out to everybody,” Her says. “The egg is the wishing of prosperity for the new year so everybody will have a hard-boiled egg to bring home.”

Cultural performances will begin at 10:30 a.m. which will be followed by an award recognition at 11 a.m. and lunch at noon.

 “There will be lots of great food. It will be a mix of traditional Hmong food and western food,” Her says. “We’re actually making three turkeys because it is Thanksgiving, but we’re also having egg rolls and a Lao chicken salad that’s very traditional. The elders are all bringing their favorite dish. There will be a nice selection of delicious foods. 

“It’s fun and great community. We will share a little bit about what the Hmong Institute as well as Hmoob Kaj Siab itself – what services it provides,” Her adds. “It’s a great opportunity to talk to the staff and to the elders there and really get to know our Hmong community.”


The 2019 Noj Tsiab (pre-New Year) and Thanksgiving celebration will be held on Thursday, Nov 14, 10:30 a.m. at the Hmoob Kaj Siab community center, located at Life Center, 4402 Femrite Dr.