By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – At the conclusion of Mass Jan. 22, Father Hai Dinh told the Vietnamese Catholic community at St. Paul the Apostle Church that “today is in honor and celebration of the first day of the Lunar New Year.”
The community, whose members belong to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, use St. Paul’s church and larger parish hall for the annual New Year celebration.
The Lunar New Year in 2012 celebrates the Year of the Dragon. “It is powerful and has energy,” Fr. Dinh said after he imitated a dragon’s roar.
Whether in their native Vietnam or in the United States, the Vietnamese spend time with their immediate families celebrating the Lunar New Year. “Everyone greets each other with Chuc Mung Nam Moi (Happy New Year),” Fr. Dinh 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.”
Joining Fr. Dinh for the celebration were Father Joseph Phung, pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant; Father Rich Adam, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral; and Father Tim Regan, parochial vicar at St. Paul the Apostle Parish.
After the closing song, the community was invited to the front of church to take a red envelope off a tree in the sanctuary. Inside the envelope is a Scripture reading for the family to reflect on throughout the year.
A reception followed in Denning Hall. The ceremony opened with presentation of American and Vietnamese flags and the singing of the national anthems of both countries. In procession, the community’s elders brought gifts of food and incense to a table on the stage. Incense symbolizes respect and the food symbolizes the work and labor of humans.
The priests in attendance passed out “lucky money” to the children. A dragon dance, serving of traditional Vietnamese food and then singing and dancing followed into the evening.