For the most part, this year Habitat homeowner Eh Soe Min and his family will celebrate Christmas in a typical Karen (Burmese) fashion. But there will be a bit of American custom thrown in to acknowledge their new status as American citizens. Eh Soe, Jue Hae and their children will start with a Bible study and worship time on Christmas morning, (Karen tradition), after which they will each open a gift from under the Christmas tree (American tradition). That afternoon they will go to Karen church services that Eh Soe will lead in his capacity as the Pastor of the Karen Baptist Church in Boise. The Christmas celebration will finish a few days later with another Karen tradition, a party attended by all of the Karen people living in Boise (they’ll also invite a number of American-born people who support the Karen refugee population). During the party each person will give a gift to someone who meant something special to them during the year. There will be dancing, a lot of Karen food and a boisterous singing contest. The singers will be judged by the people attending, who will cast a vote for a particular contestant by purchasing a flower for $1.00, going up on the stage and presenting it to the singer, often while he or she is still singing. When the contest is over, the singer with the most flowers receives a monetary prize. There are also prizes for second and third place.
There was another party at the Min home in early December. This gathering was held to recognize the fourth anniversary of the dedication of their Habitat for Humanity home, and it included 30-40 of their Karen friends as well as their Habitat Family Partner Dave Martin and others who were influential in helping them achieve their dream of owning a Habitat home. The festivities began with a worship service, singing and prayer followed by a huge spread of Karen native foods. Eh Soe Min spoke to the group about his appreciation for Habitat and the experience of going through the process of getting the home. “It doesn’t seem like it has been four years since we moved in, but it has,” observed Eh Soe, a Burmese refugee who spent many years in a relocation camp in Thailand prior to coming to Boise.