The Vietnamese community ushered in the Lunar New Year last month, and the faithful at St. Columban in Garden Grove joined in the celebration.

Parishioners gathered to celebrate the new year, or Tết Nguyên Đán, as it is known in Vietnamese, on Friday, Feb. 9.

Friday was New Year’s Eve and the actual New Year’s Day was Saturday, Feb. 10.

Tết is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture commemorating the arrival of spring. It begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar.

The principal celebration lasts three days but can be celebrated for as long as 15 days until the next full moon (Feb. 24 this year).

The Vietnamese community at St. Columban has been celebrating Vietnamese New Year for at least 30 years, according to Vietnamese Community President Jim Nguyen.

“The local Tết celebration got started as a way to thank God for all the blessings that each parishioner, each family and the community have received during the previous year,” said Nguyen.

Prior to the 5:30 p.m. Mass, incense sticks and candles were lit as a way of remembering ancestors. Customary offerings were made to offer thanks for blessings received during the year.

Since Vietnamese New Year’s Day fell on a Saturday this year, Bishop Kevin Vann granted each parish with a Vietnamese community permission to use the New Year’s liturgy for Friday’s Mass (New Year Eve), Saturday Mass (New Year’s Day Liturgy) as well as Sunday Mass.

The New Year’s Eve Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Vann along with St. Columban’s pastor, Fr. Joseph Luan Nguyen, parochial vicars, Fr. Benjamin Hoang, Fr. Taun Can Pham, Fr. Joe Nghia Anh Ho and Deacons Danny Truong and Tuan D. Nguyen.

In addition to the gifts of bread and wine, traditional rice cakes and red envelopes were brought to the altar for the Presentation and Offertory.

The red envelopes were obtained directly from Vietnam by organizer Jim Nguyen and a U.S. dollar bill was inserted inside each one. The envelopes are considered “lucky money.” They symbolize wishes for luck, health and prosperity. The red envelope tradition in only celebrated on New Year’s Day and not any other Vietnamese holidays. Traditionally, the red envelopes are distributed to children, but at the end of Mass, everyone received them before the Final Blessing and Dismissal.

Afterwards, all present were treated to a traditional Dragon Dance to honor the Year of the Dragon. The dragon represents prosperity and power, and the dance is considered to bring good luck and fortune.

Following Mass, all were invited to attend a dinner of pho (a Vietnamese soup) and to socialize with members of the clergy, including Bishop Vann, and fellow parishioners.

According to Fr. Nguyen, hosting the Vietnamese New Year celebration is vitally important and promotes the Vietnamese culture to the younger generation.

“This is so they will come to appreciate the values of Vietnamese culture and teach their children and following generations about our heritage,” said Fr. Nguyen.

A large percentage of the Diocese of Orange is Vietnamese and currently, there are 42 Masses celebrated in the Vietnamese language every weekend throughout the Diocese.