Today I went to the Karen New Year celebration. It was very interesting and I’m really glad that I went. Before I left my house I looked around for my camera, but couldn’t find it. I realized later that I left it at my parents’ house on Christmas day. Oh well… It would have made this post really cool.
I arrived a little after noon. I was lucky to find a parking spot. When I entered the church there were Karen people dressed in traditional clothing. I found a place for my coat and wandered through the crowd. I had no idea if I’d know anyone there. I went upstairs and as I rounded the corner, a woman just gave me a styrofoam container of food and a bottle of water. At that point is where I spotted my student. So I sat and ate my Karen food while talking with him.
The food box had fried rice with cilantro, egg-rolls, triangular shaped fried things and some pieces of chicken along with some hot dipping sauce. The triangle things were filled with potato and some kind of meat (probably hamburger). I liked the egg rolls the best. The dipping sauce definitely had a kick to it. For dessert was a bowl of fruit – pineapple, cantaloupe and honey dew melon.
There was a program in the sanctuary. My student lead me in and made sure I had a good seat near the front. There was dancing, singing and instrumental solos. The dancing was quite interesting. There were two different bamboo dances. The last one had six bamboo poles in one direction and six more perpendicular to the others and over the top. Each pair of poles had people on either end. The rhythm was tapped: down, down, down, together. A group of dancers stepped carefully amongst the poles without getting their ankles crunched between poles. They said that this dance was typically done at a funeral. But they also do it for the new year. My student was one that sang a song.
The people were all dressed in colorful fabrics. They were mainly in reds and blues. They are from Burma, but the style almost seemed sort of South American looking to me. I did buy a bag that will give you an idea of the fabric. Here it is:
It is so wonderful that I was able to go to this celebration. I obviously look different than them (yep – Scandinavian me sticks out). But every other “white” person that was there was treated like a special guest. They are so proud to share their culture and so glad that you want to learn about them. The changes that these people have dealt with are amazing. To assimilate to life in the US is dramatically different from their home country. I admire their efforts and was glad to be a part of them today.