Thousands of people gathered at Cal Expo Saturday to meet old friends, feast on sizzling meats and, most importantly, to herald the Hmong New Year.
Sacramento’s Hmong New Year celebration ranks among one of the most festive in the nation, owing to the large Hmong population in and around the capital city. An estimated 30,000 Hmong call the region home, according to organizers.
“This is about showcasing our culture,” said Chue Hang, one of the executive officers of Sacramento Hmong New Year Inc.
Many festival-goers donned traditional costumes, featuring clinking coins that symbolize good luck. For Cadalina Vang, 15, the annual celebration has become a way of life.
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“I’ve been here every year for as long as I can remember,” the Elk Grove resident said.
Vang was resting along the sidelines with her boyfriend, Kevin Yu, who is Chinese.
“It feels the same as Chinese New Year,” Yu said.
Each Hmong community chooses when to celebrate the new year, organizers said, and for Sacramento, the four-day event has always fallen around Thanksgiving.
The Hmong are an Asian ethnic group from the mountains of China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Many migrated abroad because of political persecution.
At the festival, vendors hawked Hmong language DVDs, ancient herbal medicine and Hmong jewelry. Mai Yang was selling xauv, a silver-colored necklace worn by the women.
“It’s pretty,” Yang said, noting that a different type of jewelry, usually with more detail, is worn for the holidays.
Traditional dances, martial arts matches and folk music were among some of the other attractions.
All are welcome at the event, which runs through today. Gurkaran Singh likened the celebration to new year’s festivities in India.
“It’s the same amount of people and the same amount of excitement,” said Singh, who drove from Fremont.
IF YOU GO:
What: Sacramento Hmong New Year celebration
Where: Cal Expo fairground, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today
Cost: $4; free for children 5 and younger and seniors 65 and older
Parking: $10 in the Cal Expo lot