The rice harvest is complete and safely gathered in. The family will be fed for the coming year so there is chance to relax, celebrate and for young people to consider finding a wife or husband. That basically is what H’mong New Year celebrations which go on for 1-4 weeks are all about. The timing is decided at very short notice as it coincides with the harvest being completed but that does not stop the activities being extensive.
Traditional headdresses for sale in the market prior to new year
Firstly the ladies in their little tailoring shacks have been very busy and everyone has new clothes using the traditional materials for the various ethnic groups but not everyone wears the ultra traditional style and many of the girls for instance have designed dresses that are way above the knee rather than the long skirts that their mothers would have worn. But regardless of skirt length, everyone wears traditional headdress to suit their outfit.
The traditional length and the modern adaptation
And it is not just the girls who dress up
The bull fighting is not as you might imagine as it is bull fighting bull in an enclosure of people, so that when the bull decides to charge out of the ring it pays not to drop your concentration and to get out of the way – quickly. I haven’t fathomed how the points are scored or who wins.
At the same time as the bull fighting, the ball tossing is taking place in an elevated patch of ground the size of a small football stadium. It is very hot and everyone carries umbrellas to provide respite from the sun, coupled with the costumes this is a sea of colour. Young people from different families come together from the surrounding area. The lines of people throw balls to each other to indicate that they are attracted to their partner. and if all goes well then a courtship may ensue.
The bull ring made from spectators with the ball tossing arena on the left – it was as hot as it looks
In the evening everyone heads for town where a huge night market, fair ground and concert area is set up for the fun to continue.
So it might seem a bit early to be saying it but here in Laos at least one of the three New Years has now come and gone (the third being the Laos New Year in April), so happy 2015 and may your harvest be good, your bulls fight bravely and your daughters marry well.