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we are all the same, yet different.

March 29, 2012

Today was cultural day at Billy’s school. It was very informative and the kids enjoyed it more than the adults. They were playing instruments and really loud.

It started off with two-story tellers telling a story about Brear Possum and the Snake.  The moral of the story: always listen to your parents and teachers.

Then all the kids went into the classroom and made rain sticks from beads and cardboard tubes that need to be folded into slats.

 

We got  a performance by a group of high school students who are Hmong.  They do not have their own country but do reside and live in the countries of Laos and Thailand.   There was a traditional dance by a pair of sisters.  Then the students explained how they find their mates and get married.  I always find others cultures of “hooking up” fascinating.  The Hmong tradition of marriage is done through a game of ball tossing.

According to the Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association, it goes something like this:

The first day of the New Year is special for the unmarried young men and women.   They will gather in the field all dressed up in their new clothing, wearing many ornaments and special decorations.  Forming their own lines, the boys and girls toss a soft ball, made of cloth, and sing to each other.  This continues for days, each taking turns tossing to different partners.  The ball is a symbol of the relationship between a young man and a young woman.  The ball toss helps them get to know each other, so they can get married and live together forever.

The young couple who met tossing ball may want to get to know each other better.  The young man will ask the girl if he can visit her.  If her parents agree, a time is set.  When he arrives, he plays a flute to announce his arrival.  The young couple will talk in the girl’s home or outside the home, always staying where other people can see them.  If after several days, weeks or months they decide to get married the girl follows the man to his home.
The young man’s parents immediately send two persons as messengers to the girl’s parents to let them know  that their daughter is safe in their home.  After three days the young man, his bride and his parents will  come to visit the girl’s home to negotiate the dowry and arrange the wedding celebration.
If everything is satisfactory with both families, the girl’s parents throw a large party.  All of the villagers, friends and relatives from surrounding villages come to enjoy the wedding feast.
The young couple will prepare themselves for their role in the yearly cycle of life as a Hmong in Laos.

Later on we made tambourines that the children played with a man, named Nasser, who played arabic music on a drum.

We had lunch.  The parents of different cultures brought in whatever they wanted to share along with recipes for whoever wanted to remake the yummy treats.

As I was walking to the car, I struck up a conversation with a grandma about the Hmong ball tossing matrimony.  She lightheartedly said, it’s because we know where their hands are at all times.

A great day.  A great ending.

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