FRESNO, California (KGPE) – The Central Valley’s Hmong community canceled their week-long celebration due to COVID-19 concerns.

A leader in the Hmong community, Pao Yang grew up in the Central Valley and has been celebrating the Hmong new year since before he can remember.

“The Hmong New Year is part of our heritage that has been embedded into our culture–a lot of this goes in deeper than just a celebration,” said Yang, the President & CEO of The Fresno Center.

The celebration usually runs from Dec. 26 through to Jan. 1.

“So, today would have been the last day of the Hmong New Year at the Fresno Fair, and it draws about 100,000 people in the seven-day festivity,” said Yang. “It’s just so so unreal that it’s not happening this year and the first time in our history in the United States.”

Yang says COVID-19 regulations are very difficult to adhere to – and even understand in the Hmong culture.

“You don’t welcome a new year with just your family, it’s not good fortune…in fact, in our community, because of how close-knit we are, and especially the elders when they hear of somebody getting sick, their first inclination is to visit, go in, to pray to heal, to hug.”

There are around 40,000 Hmong people in the Central Valley and the decision to cancel the celebration was difficult, but necessary.

“The numbers that we follow up with is just staggering — it’s just heartbreaking to see the numbers of infection from just the Hmong community.”

According to the non-profit Hmong Cultural New Year Celebration, Inc. that organizes the Fresno Fairground celebration, it is the largest Hmong-American community event in the United States and in the world.