By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan) “is the most important and widely celebrated public festival of the Vietnamese culture,” said Trien (Martin) Ngo of the Vietnamese Catholic community at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The community gathered for Mass Feb. 6 to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Officially, the event was celebrated Feb. 1 worldwide.
Father Thang Hoang, SVD, presided at Mass. Concelebrants were Fathers Michael Quang Nguyen, SVD, Long Phi Nguyen, SVD, Simon Hoang, SVD, Khoi Nguyen and Huy Nguyen — all from Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa — and Father Thom Hennen, pastor and rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The beat of a drum and bang of a gong started the procession for Mass before the choir sang in Vietnamese. Young girls carried flowers forward and men carried incense, which was placed on a table with traditional Vietnamese items in front of the sanctuary. Father Hoang thanked Father Hennen for his presence, support, care and love for the Vietnamese community.
During his homily, given in Vietnamese and English, Father Quang Nguyen said the worldwide celebration of Tet features firecrackers, pink and yellow flowers, remembrance of ancestors, and adoration. He told the community that it is important to respect all people from “cultures different than us.”
Following Mass, the priests, religious sisters and seminarians from Divine Word received a potted plant as a thank you. Young girls danced with Vietnamese dance fans and then flowers in the front of the church. Men maneuvered the two dragon costumes for the dragon dance through the aisles. Older members of the community came forward for a blessing from Father Hennen. Lucky dollars (a dollar bill in a red or special envelope) were given to those who had been blessed and then children and young people in attendance. Scripture readings for the year were passed out to families.
The events following the Mass traditionally are held during a reception, along with homemade food. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ngo said that part was canceled. This is the year of the tiger, he said. People born in the year of the tiger are strong, powerful, brave and independent.
“In the wild, tigers are not afraid of entering swamps or climbing rocks to follow their prey, so tiger individuals are fearless and relentless. Tigers are persistent and ambitious with their goals. Once they start something, they will follow the project until completion, regardless of the obstacles or misfortunes they encounter on the path to completion, success or victory,” he said.