By Tonia Borsellino
Vietnamese Catholics from throughout the Diocese of St. Augustine traveled to St. Patrick Catholic Church in Gainesville on Sunday, Feb. 14, to celebrate the biggest day in the Vietnamese culture – their Lunar New Year.
People came from Jacksonville, Chiefland and the Gainesville area to take part in the festivities, but more importantly, to keep the Vietnamese culture alive.
“It’s very important to our families to pass it on to our kids,” said Malay Phimon, originally from Laos and a parishioner at St. Patrick Catholic Church. “And hopefully the kids will be able to pass it down to their kids.”
The celebration began with a Vietnamese Mass, including the cultural tradition of lighting incense for ancestors, and handing out Li xi, or lucky money, to the children for the New Year.
William Ragan, another parishioner at St. Patrick Catholic Church, is not Vietnamese but he brought his two daughters to experience the cultural celebration.
“Catholicism reaches into every culture,” Ragan said. “These are the types of opportunities that are going to remind my daughters that they have an obligation to be good stewards throughout the world.”
The New Year, also known as Tết, typically follows the appearance of the New Moon and lasts three days. But because the Moon appeared on Feb. 8-10, the beginning of Lent, Father Dung Bui, parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s, postponed the celebration so it would not interfere.
“The first day of the year we pray for the country,” said Father Bui. “The second day we pray for our ancestors, and the third day we pray for our work, our jobs,” he explained.
Father Bui has celebrated the New Year in Gainesville for eight years now. “This is the only time during the year that I can bring the Vietnamese community together,” he said.