Vietnamese community celebrates new year

Girls perform a traditional Vietnamese dance in traditional attire during a reception celebrating the Lunar New Year for the Vietnamese Catholic community in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher

DAVENPORT — The Vietnamese Catholic Community of Sacred Heart Cathedral kicked off the Year of the Buffalo/Ox during celebrations Feb. 1. A Mass and reception were held at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.

Father Hai Dinh, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart and St. Paul the Apostle parishes, said the change of venue was to accommodate the number of people who celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Bishop Martin Amos attended the Mass for the Vietnamese community and a reception that featured such traditions as honoring the ancestors, prayer, authentic food prepared by parishioners and the dragon dance.

Father Joseph Phung, administrator of St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant; Father Joseph Sia, parochial vicar at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction; and priests from Divine Word Seminary in Epworth also were in attendance.


Activities began Jan. 31 at St. Paul the Apostle with music and traditional games, Fr. Dinh said.

On Feb. 1, the Vietnamese community gathered at the church for Mass. Traditional music was played and banners were hung to mark the New Year.

As Mass let out, attendees picked up small scrolls of Scripture verses written in Vietnamese that hung on artificial pink and yellow flowering trees. The verses will be used in their home over the next year, Fr. Dinh said.

The crowd of more than 350 flowed into Denning Hall for a ceremony to honor ancestors, as well as to enjoy traditional dances, dragon dance, food and other activities.

“To the Vietnamese, Tet is the ultimate holiday, he said. “The actual Ttet holiday is three days, though most people tend to take seven or more days off.  It is a time for family reunions, exchanging gifts, best wishes, forgiving others and paying debts in order to start the New Year with a clean slate. Literally, Tet Nguyên Ðán means the first morning of the first day of the new period.”

In Vietnam, he said, people prepare for New Year days in advance. They prepare plenty of food to share with family, friends and special guests. They buy new clothes to wear, purchase fresh flowers in the market, paint or clean their houses. These things should be done before the first day of the New Year to ensure good luck and prosperity in the coming year, he said.

Other traditions that continue in the United States include gift-giving and pasting up strips of red paper with sayings about wealth, happiness, prosperity and longevity. Another tradition is to buy “Mai” and “Ðào,” flowering branches for good luck, and fruits that each have a meaning, such as protection and success.

The entire house should be cleaned before New Year’s Day. “Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year’s Day and the next two days for fear that good fortune will be swept away,” Fr. Dinh said.

You can wish Chúc Mung Nãm Moi (Great New Year to you) to the Vietnamese or Chúc Phát Tài (wish of wealth). 

“(The) Tet celebration is the moment for everyone to express their gratitude and remembrance to their ancestors, parents, and relatives, benefactors, both living and dead. It is also observed by a family visit to the churches or pagodas to pray for good fortune and happiness,” Fr. Dinh said.

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