The purpose of the Hmong New Year ("Noj Peb Caug") is to thank all the gods and ancestors, who have helped throughout the year, celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of the year, have fun after the hard year of work, and welcome and embrace the coming year. The traditional Hmong New Year starts on the 30th of December on the lunar calendar and lasts until the 3rd of January. Because the New Year is celebrated in many different villages, depending on how busy villages are during this time, some villages do not end the New Year celebration until the 5th or the 7th of January.
Hmong New Year is a unique celebration which has many cultural characteristics. During this time, all the family members souls, household spirits, and ancestor spirits must be called upon to attend the ceremony. In the Hmong tradition, it is very important that the souls of the family members are happy during the New Year, so all the people must be at home, and their souls (which may have wondered) must be called back to stay in their bodies. During the year, souls may wander, so the souls are called back with a soul calling ceremony performed by a shaman. As the shaman calls the souls back, chickens and eggs are used to appease and welcome the souls. Chickens are also used as sacrifice to the household spirits and ancestor spirits who are called upon to join the family in celebrating the New Year. The household and ancestor spirits are asked to help look after the family members and help the family become even more prosperous in the coming year.
While the New Year is rooted in culture, it is also a time for entertainment and courtship among the youth. At the celebration, Hmong people gather to play a game using a top-like object, sing Hmong folksong, and play a courting game of ball tossing. Ball Tossing is a common courting ritual during the New Year that goes on every day during the celebration. Boys and girls dress in traditional finery, and the young people form two parallel lines with girls on one line facing an opposite line of boys. While singing Hmong folksongs, which are passed down from generation to generation, they play catch with a homemade fabric ball that is about the size of an American softball. The game becomes a way for the boys and girls to talk and interact, and it serves as a vehicle for starting a courtship or for cementing one that has already started.
As the Hmong have immigrated to many places in America, modern Hmong society has added many new activities and sports to their traditional New Year celebration. The Hmong New Year, as celebrated today, still maintains the cultural roots and serves as a reminder to the youth of their history and traditions as Hmong people.