Vietnamese ring in the Lunar New Year

Children from the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Davenport wait for the dragon to take money from them during the Lunar New Year celebration at St. Paul the Apostle’s Denning Hall Feb. 6.

By Anne Marie Amacher

DAVENPORT — The Vietnamese Catholic Community rang in the Lunar New Year with a Mass and celebration at St. Paul the Apostle Parish on Feb. 6.

The official start to the Lunar New Year was Feb. 3, said Father Hai Dinh, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, where the Vietnamese community is located.

Whether back in their native land of Vietnam or here in the United States, Fr. Dinh said the Vietnamese spend time with their immediate families during the Lunar New Year. “Everyone greets each other with Chuc Mung Nam Moi (Happy New Year),” he said.

In the days that follow, Vietnamese visit friends and relatives and bring them baskets of goodies, flowers and cheer, he noted. “Usually the second day is devoted to friends while the third day is devoted to visiting teachers and other people who command respect.”

The Vietnamese, both Catholic and non-Catholic, gathered together last month to celebrate the Lunar New Year — which has become a tradition in the Quad-City area. But the Catholic community continues its traditions on the Sunday that generally follows the Lunar New Year.

The year 2011 is the Year of the Cat in the Vietnamese zodiac, he said. The Chinese zodiac has the symbol of the rabbit this year. The year of the cat “generally represents peace and harmony,” Fr. Dinh said.

The Feb. 6 celebration was held at St. Paul the Apostle due to extra space available in the parish hall. Mass was celebrated in the church. In addition to Fr. Dinh, Msgr. Robert Gruss, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral and Father Joseph Nguyen, parochial vicar at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, concelebrated. Bishop Martin Amos was in attendance.

In the church vestibule, intercessions to Mary were prayed. Fr. Dinh said this is done the first Sunday of the month after Mass. Following the intercessions, the community gathered in Denning Hall. There the Vietnamese Republic flag and American flag were presented and the national anthems of both countries were sung. A tradition of honoring Vietnamese ancestors followed. Then the priests and Bishop Amos distributed “lucky money” (a dollar in an envelope) to the children.

Other activities included a dragon dance, serving of traditional Vietnamese food, singing and dancing.

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