By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Fake firecrackers flashed light and sounded out in Sacred Heart Cathedral to start off the Lunar New Year on Jan. 29.
The Vietnamese Catholic community gathered for the annual event, the date of which moves each year depending on moon phases. This is the Year of the Rooster. “People born in this year are hard workers,” observed Trien Ngo, representing the cathedral’s Vietnamese members.
Construction work prevented the usual festivities that follow Mass, so additional songs were sung before the liturgy in lieu of the celebration. The first song, sung by the choir, reflected a hope for spring. The second song, sung by youths, was a prayer for parents. The final song, “Give the Lord This Spring,” was sung by Father Chuong Nguyen from Divine World Seminary in Epworth, Iowa.
The cathedral was filled with many decorations for the celebration. Two trees, one with yellow blossoms and one with pink blossoms, had been placed on either side of the sanctuary. The trees’ branches held small scrolls inscribed with Scripture readings in Vietnamese for people to take home after Mass.
A table at the front of the church was laden with traditional rice cakes, sweet candies, flowers, fruits and more. “These are traditional Vietnamese gifts for the Lord,” Ngo said. Another table represented Vietnam.
Sounds of a drum roll and a gong signaled the start of the Vietnamese entrance hymn for the Mass.
During the homily, Fr. Nguyen took a cordless microphone and walked throughout the church. He asked questions in Vietnamese. People in the congregation raised their hands to receive the microphone and respond. The priest gave each respondent a lucky money envelope and small booklet.
At the end of Mass, the congregation gave thanks to Father Rich Adam, pastor and rector of the cathedral; Deacon Dan Huber, also of the cathedral; visiting priests from Divine Word College; two religious sisters and two lay men for their roles in helping to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Each received a flower bouquet. The priests and sisters distributed lucky money envelopes to everyone under the age of 21.
Many community members, especially those who had a role in the Mass, wore traditional Vietnamese clothing. “Most Vietnamese wear new clothes or traditional clothing to celebrate the New Year to promote a fresh beginning to the year,” Ngo said. Most of the decorations and much of the clothing are in red and yellow because they are bright and powerful colors.
The community looks forward to resuming its annual celebration after Mass in the new diocesan hall next year. The celebration includes traditional food, dance, music and a dragon dance. “It’s all about tradition and welcoming spring,” Ngo said.