Sunday, April 25, 2010

Experience at the traditional Hmong funeral

This is for those who were curious to know about my thoughts I previous posted about here.

The funeral home is an hour away from where I live. I felt like I was going out of town. I went there solo.

One of my Hmong friends (let's call him C) who know the Hmong tradition very well advised me not to bring my 10-years-old daughter because of possible spirits still flying and have not settled yet. He told me that kids that are 12 and younger shouldn't be at the funeral. One reasons why he doesn't bring his kids. That startled me a bit so I didn't want to take a chance and bring my daughter. Not sure if I totally believe it or not, but since hubby was home, he said he will watch the kids.

My mom mainly wanted me to come there around dinner time to help cook and clean up. Of course, most importantly, "to show face" for them.

Honestly, I felt like a super star there. On my arrival there, everyone was happy to see me there and greeted me. The older Hmoob Hawj ladies told me they appreciated me for coming. I couldn't come earlier since my husband was working but came in time to help set up for dinner.

Even though I am very open-minded to trying many cuisines from all over the world, I am very picky about certain foods and meats. Hmong people eat a lot of pork. At funerals, a cow is sacrifice as an offering. I really don't know the whole meaning behind it. C explained a little about it saying that the cow will bring good luck in the afterlife. He is the most knowledgeable of all the Hmong people my age. His wife and him are the sweetest people I've ever met!! I plan to learn more about the reasons behind the animal sacrifices and blog about it.

My sister and her sister-in-law (from her side) were telling me that I came right on time because they just help finish cooking. They were telling me that the funeral food was yummy. When I looked at it, hmmm, I didn't think so. Again, I am really picky. I don't eat beef and most pork (depending on how it's cook but mostly I don't eat pork). There was no chicken there! So I opted out from eating. But I did find some apples and coconut-flavored sticky rice wrapped in banana. Now, that was yummy!

We were in the "house" with the kitchen area for parties (I guess). At the actual funeral home, the men were playing Hmong instrument called the qeej.

I didn't want to be rude and take pictures there so I found the following pictures online.

Check out this website for more pics!

I found this video on YouTube at a Hmong funeral, the guy is chanting and then someone will play the qeej

If you want, you could watch the video below too. The above video, you couldn't really hear the qeej playing with all the noise. This is just a video I found on YouTube with a Hmong guy playing the qeej, not at a funeral.

The girl who lost her mom earlier this year, and now just lost her dad saw me and talked me. She told me she was very grateful that I came. She is pregnant with twins! Trying to hold back tears, she was telling me that her mom wanted her to have more kids (she has two boys right now). Wanting to surprise her mom with the news that she was pregnant, it was too late to tell her :( Her dad knew about her pregnancy but he passed away not being able to even see them :( She is pregnant now with twin girls!!

All I could do was hug her. This time with tears in her eyes, she tells me that my parents have been there for her through both funerals. She is happy that I came and thinks of me as a sister. Wow, I was so touched, I didn't know what to say. We chatted for a few more minutes. Her husband came by to tell her she is needed in the other building.

From what I see, there is so much work and effort put in the Hmong funeral from everyone. The men takes care of the preparations of the actual funeral. While the women, cook and clean for everyone. They prepared food for everyone. The traditional Hmong funeral (Shaman) is three days long! Many of them stay overnight. It is a 24-hours event!

It's not really  much of an experience for me at the traditional Hmong funeral. It was good to up and not let my parents down. Many of the older Hmong ladies haven't seen me in a long time and told me it was good to see me.

Ever since I stopped playing volleyball, I don't see many Hmong people anymore. Sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I don't. I find that for some reason, many of us don't like to "hang" around people of our own kind to avoid gossip.

Ironically, I hear this from the Hmong girls who are actually married to Hmong men!! At least I have an excuse (or at least I use it), my husband isn't Hmong. I don't hear about all the events or functions. Yes, my parents are very involved in the Hmong community. I know that. They don't tell me everything!

Okay, I'm off topic....

Yes, I am glad I went to the funeral to support my clan. I need to do it more often. Sometimes you don't realize the impact you have on others, even if you think it's very minimal.


cmleigh said...

Nicki, I really appreciate you sharing your culture with us.

Anonymous said...

Great post here Nicki! Thanks for sharing! Reminds me of stuff I read in "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down"
All the best!

cmtcmt said...

I mean, I know you've married off into a different culture now and you weren't Shaman to begin with, but still. I believe you should respect their traditional belief because all Hmong started it out with Shamanism before they converted to other religions. Just saying.