Happy Lao New Year
One thing I know for sure, I know that Lao Americans in the Nashville Area know how to ring in the new year! Lao New Year makes it seem like Lao Americans invented the festival of great food and dance. The traditional Lao New Year is celebrated over 3 days. The 1st day is the last day of the year. The 2nd day is the no-day or the day that is neither last year nor next year. The 3rd day is the 1st day of the new year.
A quick history of Lao Americans in the Nashville area is that many Lao Americans came here as refugees right after the Vietnam War began. Individuals and families found their way to Tennessee, and a large population of Lao settled in the southeast of Nashville. Due to the war and other factors, many Laos came with virtually nothing but the clothes on their back. Nashville was a good place to settle for many Laos because Nashville is a hard working and family oriented area, and Laos share those qualities as well. At one point in time (1990s), Lao was the 3rd most spoken language in the Nashville area after English and Spanish.
There are multiple wats, Lao Buddhist Temples in and around Nashville. The leadership of the wats cooperate with each other and each wat picks a weekend different from each other, and those are the weekends which Lao New Year is celebrated. I know of 3 wats in Nashville, and they spread out their celebrations with one every couple of weeks. The biggest wat is located about 25 miles south of Nashville, and the Lao New Year celebration was the last one in the series of celebrations, and happened over the Memorial Day weekend.
This big celebration included live music, a parade, food, toys, beverages, and dancing. Some of the food offered at this celebration included grilled squid, squab, chicken, duck, craw fish and pork belly. There was also sticky rice, fruits, veggies, pho, and noodle dishes to be had. There were beverages also, and the one I love so much is the fresh sugar cane juice. The cane is put through a press designed to press cane, and the flat dry cane fiber comes out on one side, and the refreshing juice came out of the spigot on the other side. I sipped on the juice over ice all afternoon long, and it felt refreshing, energizing, and delightful to my body to drink this juice.
For this celebration, just like many cultures new year celebration, it is meant for family and larger groups to come together, and partake in a meal together in joy and well wishing. There are lots of tables under tents and a pergola, so guest and revelers can enjoy a celebratory meal. I got smart this year, and I brought a big shopping bag with tupperware and plastic bags to take home leftovers for later. I took home with me a couple pounds of Lao style BBQ pork belly, a whole Lao style duck, and a bunch of sticky rice. These items I cannot make at home, or at least not in the expert way they are made at the New Year celebration. Next year, I will remember to bring a large wide mouth bottle, so I can take home fresh cane juice.
Happy New Year to my dear Lao American friends! Thank you for letting me be a part of your circles. I am forever grateful for you kindness and letting me be a part of your lives. Let us celebrate New Year next year! xoxo