New Year in the Park is operated solely by a team of community members and volunteers. Without the help of our planning committee, our Spring celebration would not be possible. For this week's volunteer highlight, we would like to recognize Seng Saechao. Seng has been involved with New Year in the Park for over a year and currently serves on the marketing committee. He helps coordinate earned media in Portland to help elevate our event branding and awareness.
Seng was born in Thailand (his family background extends from Laos and Thailand) and was raised here in Portland. His professional background and experience is in sales and marketing, with an emphasis in the medical device arena.
When asked why he participants in New Year in the Park, he says he loves to preserve our unique cultures. “Volunteering has been a way of life in my family, and I consider it a privilege to work with like-minded people that share the same sentiment in preserving our unique cultures.”
For our 5th installment of the New Year in the Park celebration, Seng is very excited for the food but he is also looking to increase the impact that the planning committee has on the younger generation to attend the event. Seng says, “I’m proud of the group of people I get to work with on the NYP board, and it’s my hope and agenda to continue to increase Southeast Asian cultural awareness in my hometown.”
New Year in the Park is only a few days away and the excitement is ramping up. We have many wonderful performances and cultural showcases planned, and of course, this year’s assortment of food vendors is much better than year’s past! With an expected 10,000 people in attendance throughout the day, our 5th Annual New Year in the Park celebration is going to be a hit. “Come for the food, stay for the dance performances, make friends for a lifetime,” Seng says.
Join in on the celebration. Please RSVP on our facebook page and stay tuned further updates!
For the last five years, New Year in the Park has made a home within the Roseway Neighborhood in Northeast Portland. During April, along 82nd Avenue, you’ll find cars parked along Siskiyou Street with crowds of people gathering at Glenhaven Park. But this isn’t a traffic jam or sporting event in the park. Instead, it’s one of the biggest Cambodian, Lao, Thai, and Burmese celebrations in Oregon!
New Year in the Park was founded in 2014 by Saron “Ron” Khut, owner of Mekong Bistro in Northeast Portland. When asked why he created New Year in the Park, Saron says “The Laotian and Cambodian community in Portland have always had great new year events but they were never together. There isn’t much Southeast Asian representation here and no one really knows who we are. This was one of the reasons why I was driven to start an event like this.”
Saron would frequently visit Long Beach, California to celebrate because the Cambodian community is significantly larger there. After years of visiting our neighboring state to the south, Saron wanted to bring that same energy to Portland. Saron recalls, “After so many years of going to California, I wanted to bring our cultural event here to Portland. Initially, I was only thinking about a Cambodian festival but since Laos and Thailand shared the same new year as Cambodia, I approached the Laotian community with the idea!” Engagement did not only come from Cambodian, Lao and Thai cultures, but also from Mien, Hmong and Burmese. This event quickly fostered relationships between many Southeast Asian cultures.
Aside from being the the original founder of New Year in the Park, Saron is also an active member of the planning committee, focusing on the logistical aspect of the festival. Saron graciously opens his restaurant as the central planning location for New Year in the Park meetings each month and is proud to see his committee members of different backgrounds, age groups, and ethnicities coming together.
When asked what motivates him to continue planning this day-long festival, he says his Cambodian culture is his motivation and preserving it is his goal. This year, Saron is excited to see all the beautiful clothes, arts and performances. “I can't wait to see all the smiles and taste all the delicious food while continuing to foster relationships with the community. I’m so proud of my New Year in the Park team and I hope more people will come join in on the celebration this year!”
Saron says he has high hopes for the near future that New Year in the Park will grow to be one of the city/state tourist attractions. “I see this festival as a destination for people from all over. The last Saturday of April will be a Portland main attraction.”
“New Year in the Park is a dream come true for me personally because we now have something for us all to be proud of. I can't believe that this will be our fifth year. What started as a dream is now a strong reality. I'm happy for our community and for our city. Sursdey Chnum Tmey! Sok Dee Pee Mai! Happy new year!”
If you’re looking for a family-friendly, culturally fun event in Portland, Saron says New Year in the Park is the event for you. Expect to enjoy a large variety of culturally-rich, fun and festive foods from local vendors, like Khao Niew and Talay Thai, traditional live performances from talented groups such as Thai Association and Cha Girls, beautiful arts, outfits and so much more!
New Year in the Park is going down on Saturday, April 27th 2019, from 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM. Please RSVP on our facebook page and be ready to have a great time! Check back in on our blog for an updated vendor list and to navigate day-of for our cultural event!
My name is Coua Xiong and I am Hmong American. I was born in Wisconsin and moved to Portland with my family in 2008. While attending the University of Oregon, I realized the importance of community, especially within underrepresented populations. Several Southeast Asian students and I founded the UO Southeast Asian Student Alliance. Through this group, we celebrated and highlighted various Southeast Asian cultures and traditions.
After graduation, I began attending New Year in the Park committee meetings. After last year’s celebration in April 2018, I took on the position as co-chair. In addition to New Year in the Park, I am a board member of the Hmong American Community of Oregon and the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, as well as a committee member of Hmong Women Today of Oregon.
Before finding these opportunities, I struggled to understand what it meant to “get involved”. As a recent graduate, my environment changed and finding affinity became a challenge. I think this challenge is common for many students and graduates. I appreciate the way New Year in the Park engages many student volunteers and paves a way for students to connect to fellow peers, take leadership roles, and foster cultural pride. We value intergenerational engagement and plan to integrate the topic of generational cultural gap into our promotions.
Although New Year in the Park does not celebrate a Hmong holiday, what I have learned from my community work during and after college is that lifting up community can not be done in silo, at least not effectively. I believe this value is one of the foundations for New Year in the Park, as this event uniquely brings together various Southeast Asian communities to celebrate a common holiday.
New Year in the Park is a free, fun, family-friendly festival with great authentic foods, unique cultural art pieces, entertaining performances and even sport tournaments. There are activities for all individuals and the high energy of Glenhaven Park during this festival is always inspiring and motivating for me. This event is created by people in the community that it serves and that authenticity shows on the day of. I am excited for the event this year and hoping for another year of great weather.
Rain or shine, I hope to see you there!
Did you know that New Year in the Park (NYP) is now entering our 5th official year? Every April, for the last half decade, members of the Portland community and beyond gather at Glenhaven Park to celebrate a very important cultural celebration in Southeast Asian: Lao, Thai, Cambodian, and Burmese New Year.
In 2018 we saw attendance rise to an all-time-high of 8,000 attendees over the course of the day. With New Year in the Park growing into such a great cultural event for the Portland Metro area, we're expecting even greater numbers this year.
New Year in the Park would not be possible if it weren’t for volunteers like Peter Greenfield.
Peter is a retired engineer and clinical hypnotherapist. He has been an eager student of Asian cultures for many years now. His parents collected Asian art and traveled extensively throughout Asia, and that enthusiasm was instilled into him as well. Even though, Peter isn’t Asian, he hopes to be considered "honorary.” He loves having the opportunity to help share the beauty and peace that he comes across.
Peter joined the NYP planning committee early last year and generously volunteered to help out other volunteers! During last year’s event, he helped check-in over 100 high school volunteers from all over Portland. He mentioned that he was “very impressed by the organization of the committee and the commitment and work ethic of the people on it."
Peter also mentioned that “New Year in the Park is an excellent way to bring to the broader community some experience and enjoyment that the Thai, Lao, Cambodian and Burmese groups have to offer. One of my passions is to have a society where everyone is accepted and the gifts each group brings to the table are appreciated.”
“I tell people that they should attend because it is a fun event that brings wonderful samples of diverse food, culture and entertainment together for all to experience and enjoy.”
We rely on volunteers such as Peter to continue to narrate our story and bring our celebration to life. If you are interested in being apart of NYP planning committee or want to help out day-of, please contact us at nyp.pdx.info@gmail or visit our contact page.
My name is Sokho Eath and I am Cambodian-American. I was born in Portland, Oregon and have lived on throughout the metro area, Oregon coast, and Willamette Valley. I work with the Cambodian community through the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon (CACO), and have served as President since 2015. CACO has been a close partner with New Year in the Park since the first year of the celebration.
New Year in the Park is significant to our community because of the cross community, multigenerational effort to put on one of the most important holidays in Southeast Asian culture for all of the Portland area.
I first started attending New Year in the Park committee meetings, and quickly became a part of the organizing team. As a part of a generation born here in the United States, I feel that this major community event is a time where we respect the culture and heritage of our families to celebrating, learning, and growing together what it means to be Southeast Asian American. So often, our identities and cultures are overshadowed. But on this day, we are able to showcase our community efforts to preserve, empower, and unite our community together. The energy, the food, the culture, the music and dance - all of this is what makes our cultures unique and exciting to share with pride to everyone around us.
Much of our culture, heritage, and knowledge of our own language, is sometimes lost among young people when we grow up here. Working together, with our elders, we’re able to help keep our cultural heritage alive. It’s all about keeping a sense of community; coming together to represent our cultures and preserve our heritage. I think this one of the most important parts of this celebration.
Join us for our 5th year. New Year In The Park will be held on April 27th, 2019 at Glenhaven Park in Northeast Portland. We hope to see you all there!
The three day festival is the largest and most important traditional event within these cultures, and usually falls around mid-April, according to the ancient Hindu calendar season, when farmers would enjoy their harvest before the monsoon season begins.
According to Lao legend, the festival started after King Thao Kabinlaphrom lost his life in a bet. Per his request, his seven daughters (representing each day of the week) took great care not to let his severed head touch the ground or there would be great destruction throughout the world.
DURING THE FESTIVAL
Sand stupas or mounds, are built before being offered to the monks as a way of making merit. The stupas are decorated with flags, flowers, white lines lines, and splashed with perfumed water. The stupas represent Mt. Sumeru, the mountain where King Thao Kabinlaphrom’s head was kept.
In the Burmese community, Thingyan is a favorite time for shinbyu, novitiation ceremonies for boys in the tradition of Theravada Buddhism when they will join the monks to spend a short time, or longer, in a monastery immersed in the teachings of Buddha, the Dhamma. It is akin to rites of passage or coming of age ceremonies in other cultures.
The New Year is the only time of the year when young Cambodians are allowed to meet and engage with potential marriage partners.
“Representing the last day of the old year.”
Thais perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual in the first day which is National Elderly Day. The ritual involves the young pouring fragrant water into the palms of the elders as a gesture of humility and to ask for their blessing.
For the Lao people, the first day is called Sangkhan Luang and is a day when people clean their homes in preparation for the New Year. Buddha images are taken down so that people can pour perfumed water on them. The water that runs off the images is then used to pour on family, friends, and homes.
Cambodian celebrate the first day very similar to the Lao people. To welcome a new god or angel to protect the world in the year ahead, they clean and decorate their homes and themselves. This ensures that the New Year does not start with bad luck or unhappiness.
“The “day of no day”, that falls in neither the old year nor the New Year.”
For the Thais, the second day is officially National Family Day. It is a day to wake early to give alms to monks and spend quality family time together.
For Laotians, the second day is a day of rest called Sangkhan Nao, when all work is forbidden and only fun activities take place such as visiting with friends and family. Laotian elders don’t allow young people to stay still as it is believed sleeping or staying still will get one sick in the coming year. At nighttime, there is usually a Lamvong (circle dancing) party with plenty of food and drinks.
For Cambodians, the second day also known as Virak Wanabat or day of giving, is a day where the young would give gifts to the elderly, children receive new clothes while the poor are given money and clothes.
“Marking the start of the New Year.”
The start of the New Year is called Sangkhan Kheun Pii Mai to the Lao people and T’ngai Lieang Saka or new beginning to the Cambodians. It is the most joyous day of the festival. People will go to temple and make offerings to gain merit.
While New Year in The Park 2019 is only a one day festival, expect a day full of food, culture, and fun! Join in the new year celebration at Glenhaven Park on Saturday April, 27th 2019, from 9:30AM to 6:00 PM. We look forward to seeing you all there. Stay tuned with our blog posts in April when we highlight what to expect and how to navigate this year’s celebration!
My name is Stefan Saing and I am a Cambodian-American. My parents are immigrants and refugees from Cambodia and arrived in the US in the 1975 and 1981 separately. My sister and I were born in Long Beach, California in 1988 and 1990, respectively. We moved from Long Beach in 1997 and made our roots in Beaverton, Oregon. The friends my parents made were part of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon and I have been involved with them ever since. From folk dancing, to camping, to youth groups, to board membership, there has always been a place for me among the community.
In college, I was approached by a young man named Sokho Eath, who I believed to resemble a family member of mine, and asked whether I was Khmer (because of my darker complexion). That began my involvement with the Cambodian Student Association at OSU where we were part successful student organizations that wanted to highlight and celebrate their cultures.
I share a little bit about my parents migration story because I think it informs the person that I am. I am both an obliging and rebellious Cambodian son. And I believe that this is a common feeling among many Khmer and “second-gen” people of my generation. The balancing act between, "I am grateful for your support and sacrifices, therefore I will follow your instructions," and "I am grateful for your support and sacrifices, so I will now forge my own path to success".
New Year in the Park represents a multigenerational and cross cultural event to celebrate, rediscover, and connect to our traditional Southeast Asian cultures. There are many in our communities who feel disconnected in many ways and this represents an opportunity for folks to connect with others who might feel similarly and learn from those who feel more connected.
Many from generations past have always felt like outsiders to a new country and moved forward in their lives with that lens -- that this was not their home and they had to do whatever it took to integrate successfully and to survive and thrive. But there was also an identity and homesickness that could not be denied which pushed our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles to preserve their culture. Our generation now is doing its best to define what it means to be both a Portlander/American and a Southeast Asian. The constant push and pull of picking one identity over another is a false choice to me now and New Year in the Park represents a direction where we decide what it means to be [Blank]-American in Portland.
New Year in the Park is an annual event and is open and free to the public! Traditionally, the New Year is celebrated in April to signal the end of rice harvesting season for Theravada Buddhist cultures. We celebrate with Buddhist monk prayers, mini parades, folk dances, and other family friendly activities. The energy brought by the community members is infectious when coupled with dance, food, music, and colors!
We play all day, rain or shine, so bring your dancing boots and maybe your rain boots!
What do Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar all have in common? Not only do these countries represent parts of Southeast Asia, but all four also share the same new year! The new year celebration, many calling it “Songkran,” is derived from the Sanskrit word, saṅkrānti, which translates into “the passage of time.” Cambodians refer to the new year as “Moha Songkran,” whereas Thais call it “Songkran.” Laotians, on the other hand, call it “Pii Maii” and the Burmese call it “Thingyan.” All sound different but all four new years share very close similarities.
Whether you call it “Moha Songkran,” “Songkran,” “Pii Maii,” or “Thingyan,” this multi-day New Year celebration falls during mid-April and signals the end of the harvest season, where farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor right before the monsoon season. The beginning of the new year celebration also marks the start of various religious activities where friends and family gather to bring alms and offerings to their monasteries. Lighting candles and burning incense is also common and is done to pay homage and as a gesture of thanks to their ancestors and to the Buddha.
Water is a big theme during this celebration and symbolizes washing away “sins” of the previous year. Scented water, usually mixed with flowers, and cologne or perfume are often used. It is the tradition for people to wash their homes, Buddha statues, and even each other! Washing those that you admire is believed to be a deed that will bring longevity, prosperity in life, and good luck. It is common to shower elders, family, and friends with water during this holiday.
Delicious food such as grilled fish, lemongrass beef, sour soups, various green and red curries, fried noodles, and rice dishes can be found. To many, this aspect is one of the highlights of the celebration. Tasty food, colorful jelly desserts, heavy amounts of coconut milk, rice-flour treats, and even sweet fruits can also be found. Other festivities include traditional dance and songs and even fun games such as “chicken and the crow,” where one imitates being a mother hen and protects her chicks from the crow, all of which can be played by both children and adults.
In 2015, we started a wonderful annual tradition as a collective Southeast Asian community. We hosted the first New Year celebration that incorporates all these neighboring communities and cultures. Whether you have been attending New Year in the Park each year or if it’s your first time, we invite you to join the celebration! New Year in the Park 2019 will take place on Saturday, April 27th from 9:30 am - 6:00 pm at Glenhaven Park in Portland. We hope to see you there!
We welcome community organizers! If you are interested in joining the planning committee, our next meeting will be held on February 6th at Mekong Bistro, from 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM.