Greh Ritual or New Year Celebration Posted on May 22, 2020June 1, 2020 by matoulas Khmu’ is one of the three main ethnic groups in Laos which consists of the Lao Theung (Khmu’), Lao-Loum, and Lao Soung (Hmong). The Khmu’ ethnic group is the original indigenous inhabitants of Laos. Khmu’ has their own language, written alphabets that was taught to them during the colonial era. They preserve and protect their culture, beliefs, and traditional costumes which makes them unique from the many ethnic groups in Laos. The Greh Ritual ceremony is the most important New Year celebration for Khmu’ people. The ritual processes observed during the Greh are what we believe and respect to be very important to our culture, a tradition that was passed down from our forefathers, Khoune Cheung (Ta’ Cwaq). No matter where Khmu people live, we always celebrate `Mun Greh, either as an individual family gathering or as a community social event. Every family, every clan, and in every city, Greh is celebrated in the month of December through January (‘Nwan Ciaq-‘Nwan Ñi) Kdoq-Cwaq (The Jar) The Greh celebration represents many great aspects of life, such as preparing and serving food, raising all kinds of animals, planting crops in the fields, harvesting rice and storing the seeds for the next year’s farming season. The Greh ceremony consists of banana trees, sugar cane, flowers called Raaq Roon, two jars of rice wine as a centerpiece. The centerpiece’s decoration is surrounded with many different kinds of root and vining crops, such as yam, pumpkins and taro etc., and variety of farming tools such as shovels, sickles and knives. The main purpose of the Greh ceremony is for us Khmu people to remember and give thanks to our ancestor “Ta’ Cwaq, Ya’ Cwaq’. We want to thank them for the year’s bountiful harvest from the farm, a healthy life, and peace for all Khmu’ people. During the ceremony we ask them to continue to give us abundant crop, healthy life, peace and prosperity in the up-coming year. The steps or processes of the Greh Celebration A group of people, young and old parade towards to the Greh’s centerpiece to announce the New Year celebration by dancing, singing and hitting gongs. Sword dance is part of the Greh ceremony, it represents the bravery of our ancestral warrior slashing and whirling his weapon to chase and scare the enemies. In addition, Sword dancer in the old day as known as Shaman whom has a power spirit to overpower of all bad spirits; performs his dance with sword to eliminate all bad spirits out of the ceremony’s location prior to the start of the Greh ceremony. Nang Keo Dance (Fone Nang-Keo) is performed right after the Sword Dance is completed. It’s a traditional dance for Khmu Greh ceremony. This dance is performed to call the great ancestor’s spirits to come and bless the Greh ceremony, embrace the gathering, and welcome the Khmu Greh ceremony. Next step is to show respect to the community elders, leaders, and important guests by having them seated in front of the Greh’s centerpiece before the Shaman start the event. The first segment is the ritual performance ceremony that honors the current year by the Greh Shaman. Originally, Khmu in Laos performed Greh ceremony by having the Shaman take the hen, cut the beak, and smear blood down onto the knees of the family members and the respect elders. Currently in United States of America, Canada, and European countries, due to International Animal Rights Law, we use a of bundle of flowers dipped in the ceremony’s holy water instead. At this point the Shaman will swipe on the family/respected elder’s hands above their knees from top-down to the bottom while he is chanting and wishing for all the bad lucks such as sickness, diseases, economic sufferings, and starvation due to bad harvest to be gone. Once the first round of the ritual is completed, the first sacred rice-wine, which represents the previous year is opened for the respected members to drink. During this time there’s no singing of Khmu song called, “Term.” The second segment proceeds by the Greh’s Shaman to welcome the New Year. Again, traditionally, the Greh’s Shaman would take the rooster, cut the beak, and smear blood upward onto the knees of the family members and the respect elders. Currently, we once again use a bundle of flowers dipped in the ceremony’s holy water to smear the hands/knees of the family members and respect elders. At this point the Shaman will swipe on the family/respected elder’s hands above their knees from the bottom up. During this round all hands are opened, facing up to receive the New Year’s prayers from the Greh’s Shaman. The Greh’s Shaman will be chanting the Greh’s special verses to wish for a good life, good luck, good health, prosperity, peace and happiness for the up-coming new year. The second rice-wine jar is opened and all the respected members are invited to drink and welcome the New Year. During this time there will be selected folklore singers to sing “Term Khmu” while respected elders drink the rice-wine. In addition, all the Khmu instruments such as swq-kool, pi, gong, and high hatch are being played at this segment. You can hear the sound of the gong and high hatch in a rhythmic tune of celebration, welcoming the Khmu New Year. Lao-Khmu Traditional (Baci) ceremony The Baci (Wrist-ties) ceremony is known to be the most important Ceremony in Laos and it’s performed by many ethnic groups in Laos. It’s believed to bring good luck and invites the good spirits to come back into the body and soul. Again, the Baci ceremony is being performed by the Master Ceremony by chanting the Baci language in wishing for a good life, good luck, good health, prosperity, peace and happiness for the up-coming year while all family members, respected elders, and important guests are seated around the centerpiece (Pha-Kwan). After the Master ceremony finished chanting, then he ties the wrists of the elders and the most important guests first with the white strings from the center piece. Thereafter, all people that gathered tie each other’s’ wrists with the white strings and wish one another a good luck and prosperity for the Khmu Greh New Year. Happy Khmu New Year (Sm ‘maay le’ Nwm Hmmé’) The main purpose of the “Greh” celebration is to preserve and protect our culture and heritage, to share our tradition with others, and most importantly, to pass it on to our future generations. Written By: Tony KhoutsavanhResources: 1. www.khmuoc.org2. The book of Khmu’ livelihood by Mr. Suksavang Simana and Elizabeth Preisig.