Vietnamese Catholics celebrate Lunar New Year

Anne Marie Amacher
Father Thom Hennen, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, passes out Scripture readings following a Lunar New Year Mass Feb. 11 at the cathedral.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Battery-operated firecrackers sounded inside Sacred Heart Cathedral to kick off the Lunar New Year Mass and celebration for the Vietnamese Catholic community Feb. 11.

The Lunar New Year, also called Tet, is an important holiday for the Vietnamese and many Asian communities. It includes traditional parties, fireworks and food. “Tet, when winter ends and spring begins, is the cycle (signaling) the universe is over and it is time to give way to the beginning of a new one,” said Trein Martin Ngo of the Vietnamese Catholic community. “For the Vietnamese, honoring the coming of the New Year looks ahead toward good fortunes while centering on happiness and positive values. Numerous celebrations aim to strengthen Vietnamese culture, beliefs and family ties. Tet is not only a long and proud tradition of Vietnamese but also a symbolic festival of birth and rebirth that only strengthen in the coming years.”

The year 2024 is the year of the dragon, based on the lunar calendar. “People born in the year of the dragon are energetic, confident and charismatic. They possess leadership skills and a spirit of adventure and pursue their goals with courage. They are good at connecting with others and, therefore, often find success in entrepreneurship or creative industries,” Ngo said.


During Mass, many children to adults wore traditional Vietnamese attire in a variety of colors. Young children processed in line with pink and yellow artificial flowers during the opening song. Father Simon Thoi Hoang, SVD, the new rector of Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, presided. Concelebrating were Father Thom Hennen, the cathedral’s pastor; Father Khoa Le, parochial vicar of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish-Clinton; and several priests from Divine Word. Many seminarians and religious sisters from Epworth attended the Mass.

In his homily, read in Vietnamese and English, Father Hoang described the dragon as “a mystical animal compared with others” that “carries inner power to transform the world around us. It represents power.” In the first hour of the Lunar New Year, “we ask the Lord to give us strength, unity and patience of the dragon to lead a good life as Christians. On our journey, may we learn to be strong. We are in God’s hands and have trust in him and he will guide us with the graces necessary to be living models.” He concluded, “May this community carry on hope and strength, together. And may mother Mary protect us.”

At the end of Mass, Ngo thanked Father Hennen, Deacons John Jacobsen and Dan Huber and the parish staff for the “presence, love and support for our community.” Attendees ages 65 or older came to the front of the cathedral for a blessing from Father Hoang and Father Hennen and each received a red envelope containing a “lucky dollar” for the New Year. Youths 18 and under came forward to receive their red envelopes afterwards.

After Mass, families were invited to take a scroll with a Scripture verse for the New Year. A reception followed in the Great Hall with homemade Vietnamese food, dragon dance, singing and dancing.

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