ASHWAUBENON - The Hmong community got a jump start on ringing in 2013 this weekend.
A New Year's celebration took place at the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena.
"We give thanks to the passing of the year, and then welcome the new beginnings of the next year," said Hmong Center of Green Bay president Mary Kong.
Thousands of Hmong from Wisconsin, and across the country, gathered in Ashwaubenon to celebrate the New Year.
"We all get together and meet all our friends that we haven't seen in a long time," said Pao Lee of Green Bay.
It's a time for the Hmong community to devote to heritage, tradition and culture.
"We're always so busy going to work and forgetting about who we are or our identity is, so having a celebration kind of brings everybody to remember who they are, their identity, what we are," Kong said.
That includes wearing traditional costumes and taking part in unique activities. This one is meant to introduce young men and women to each other.
"For the young folks that aren't married, or who are single, they come here to a ball toss and here to meet new girls or meet new boys," said Lee.
The festivities also involve a singing competition, beauty pageant and other contests.
"I like doing the dance competitions, so I enjoy that a lot," said Nachia Moua.
Those who hail from the younger Hmong generation, like Moua, said the celebration is instrumental in maintaining their roots.
"Because we're not so familiar with it, and this is the only place where we can really familiarize ourself with our customs," Moua said.
The Hmong people said they welcome others to take part in their annual event.
"We are not a closed culture. We are open to the community. We accept anybody that would like to come and enjoy with us," said Lee.
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