Burmese New Year celebrated in Eastern Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Burmese New Year celebrated in Eastern Iowa

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Thousands of people are celebrating a special new year in Eastern Iowa Sunday.

Waterloo is home to more than 2000 Burmese refugees, and Sunday traditionally marks the end of rice planting in the Karen culture.

"There will be traditional culture, people walking on stage, showing off their clothes representing traditional culture," said Stella Lwin, a Burma native.

Lwin and her friends are some of many performers at the Karen New Year celebration.

"Here to have it in Waterloo, this is their new home," said Jeremy Everett, who works with EMBARC, the Ethic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center.

Many Burma refugees in Iowa spent years in refugee camps.

Leaders with EMBARC say celebrating a new year with a new life comes easy.

"This is where they're starting new lives, having children, their families are working and starting over," said Everett. "This is after the refugee process and horrible things they've experienced."

Traditional songs, dances, and food help ring in the new year and exhibit some culture some in Iowa may have never seen before.

"It may change [their] minds on [us], like 'oh I don't like them' but maybe they can change their opinion when they see [us] and how [we] present [ourselves],
 said Lwin.

The event was held in Evansdale last year, and drew in more than 350 people.

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