Southeast Asian cultures come together to celebrate New Year in Portland

Summer Mounsaveng showcases her traditional Lao outfit. [Emery Thanathiti/FLUX]

By Emery Thanathiti

For American immigrants, living in a country far away from home implies the adaptation to foreign environments and often leads to the loss of cultural practices. Holidays, in particular, become less festive as America seems to go on without realizing the cultural significance of day like Choul Chnam Thmey, Pi Mai, Songkran and Thingyan. For Portland, this started to change five years ago.

New Year in the Park Poster. [Emery Thanathiti/FLUX]

On Satday, April 27, Glenhaven Park, Portland had its fifth annual New Year in the Park celebration. For the last five years, the organization has set up a large event for a chance to bring together the Cambodian, Lao, Thai and Burmese cultures as they all celebrate the same New Year.

The all-day event was filled with long lines of people eagerly awaiting try various Southeast Asian cuisines, ranging from coconut curry cooked in banana leaves to grilled chicken with sticky rice. Women could be spotted wearing vibrant silk garments while men showcased their traditional Salong (Lao for “big pants”). Children could be seen running around, coins dangling from their Hmong embroidered hats clinking together, complementing the subtle Ching of finger cymbals from a distant performer.