Karen is the most numerous tribe among the hill tribes in Mae Hong Son province, scattered in every district. This is because the western territory of Mae Hong Son area borders Kaya State of Myanmar, which was the original domicile of Karen. Karen has been evacuated to settle down in Mae Hong Son province for a period of not less than 200 years already. Set the villages scattered in all districts. There are 2 big groups of Karen living in Mae Hong Son province, Pwo Karen and Sagaw Karen. The clear distinction between the two of them is the woman’s dress, such as the ornaments, the colors of the dress, and the designs of the weaving. Pwo Karen women are more popular in decorative jewelry than Sagaw Karen. Both tribes of single girls will wear long white shirt adjacent down to the shin, the dress of Karen people; each tribe has its own characteristics that differ obviously. Therefore, the style of dress is the part that can clearly indicate the uniqueness of each Karen tribe. Karen people usually settle their houses along the valley at an altitude of 500 m. above sea level. Houses of Karen people are high platform wooden houses and the Karen’s family usually consists of single family, there are only a father, a mother and unmarried children, Karen living by planting rice farms, other plants and vegetables planting, a current farm besides still feeding pigs, chickens, oxen, buffaloes and elephants for consumption, doing rites, selling, working for wages. Most Karen people believe in spirits worship doctrine, and some of the others believe in other religions which depend on the relationship with the lowland community.
Karen New Year Celebration.
The Karen will celebrate their new year just before the growing rice time; it is generally about February of each year. The right time to celebrate New Year’s Day will be selected by a village witch-doctor. When the time arrives the witch-doctor will begin the ceremony by binding every villager’s wrist with a holy thread. After that the head of each family will bring their own boiling and distilling spirit to give to the witch-doctor. The first glass of the spirit will be kept as an offering to the guardian spirit of the forest that will be invited by the witch-doctor to join the ceremony for protecting all the villagers in the village and helping the growth of crops. Later, everybody joins in drinking together. When the ceremony finishes at home, the witch-doctor has to do the same thing to all the houses in the village. On New Year’s Day they will kill lots of buffaloes and pigs to celebrate the New Year among them.