Karen communities in Australia celebrate to protect their culture

Karen people who have resettled in Australia are determined that their children do not forget their heritage or their traditions. This year a Karen community living in Melbourne, Victoria invited other ethnic groups from Burma and local Aboriginal leaders to attend the annual wrist-tying ceremony.

Nan Let Let Win an organizer of this year’s wrist-tying celebrations said.

“The practice and the holding of the wrist-tying ceremony are to maintain and celebrate our Karen traditions. Our children who are now living in foreign communities it is a reminder for them to know that we Karen are a nation, a nation who has their own language, literature and our own unique culture.”

Nan Let Let Win said it is important that Karen children do not forget who they are or where they are from.

“We have our own traditions that we practice and we elders have to keep passing them on no matter where we have scattered to or been resettled to. Although we Karen may have different have different religions, in the wrist-tying ceremony we all come together to celebrate as we are from the same ancestors.”

Nan Let Let Win is involved with the Karen Buddhist group in Victoria and is a committee member of the Australian Karen Organization (AKO) – the organizer of this years wrist-tying ceremony.

The Karen traditional wrist-tying ceremony was held at the Event Center in Hoppers Crossing, Werribee, in Melbourne’s western suburbs. As many as 800 Karen living in the suburb of Melbourne, ethnic people from Burma, Australians including local Aboriginal leaders joined in the celebrations. The event took place on Sunday August 12.

Werribee is a suburb that is heavily populated by Karen people who had been resettled from refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border.

This year’s wrist-tying ceremony included the playing of the Karen traditional music ‘harp’, the Karen traditional ‘Don’ dance, the Karen ‘Bamboo Dance’ and the wrist-tying.

Thera Thein Su, an AKO leader said.
“The Karen migrated from Mongolia, from the legendary place called Htee Set Met Ywa (the River of Running Sand). Our accentors migrated to the ‘Green Land’ that is now Burma. The wrist tying ceremony has been practice by our ancestors for thousands of years from when they were in Mongolia and has continued to this time. We have to maintain this culture. If we don’t take of care of it and maintain it, our culture will disappear and be lost among all the other different cultures.”

Traditionally, the Karen wrist-tying ceremony takes place on the August full moon. During the ceremony, Karen people use white threads or red threads to tie them around their wrists to ward off illness, bad fortune and for the reunion of families. This year, on the Karen calendar, the August full moon fell on September 1st, but Karen people around the world celebrated the ceremony on different days of August according to the position of the moon in respective countries of resettlement or when most of the community can attend, especially during weekends.

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