Today, the Karen celebrate the first day of their New Year — 2752.
The local Karen community prepared a buffet-style breakfast, which lasted for hours before the formal program began in the Center for Contemporary Culture at the Hartford Public Library.
The Asylum Hill neighborhood is where many of the Karen now live. This population, primarily originating from Burma¹ and Thailand, has come to the United States as refugees.
That is only one piece of this ethnic group’s history. During the celebration, there was a “culture show” to provide a glimpse of what life had been like in Burma. The dramatic reenactments showed life in a society of farmers, hunters, and gatherers. Courtship rituals and the typical marriage ceremony, along with a wrist-tying ceremony, were demonstrated. This show gave insight into a cooperative model of education in which children are expected to learn from their peers. Similarly, the values of kindness, helpfulness, and cooperation are seen in how household chores are shared between the sexes.
Between the show, dancing, singing, and a procession of flags, the celebration included several guest speakers and an opening prayer by Father Joseph Cheap. The priest and others encouraged the community to be kind to each other and keep their culture. Peace, happiness, and good health were the common wishes made for others.
Continuing with emphasis on values like loyalty and respect, the ceremony included giving gifts and expressing gratitude to elders and honored guests.
¹The country was consistently referred to as Burma during this celebration, so that is the term being used here.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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