At Our Lady of Vietnam Church-- designed to resemble a traditional pagoda-- hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics will gather for Mass with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, to mark the start of the Lunar New Year (the Year of the Snake).
The standing-room crowd at the annual Mass will include men, women and children in colorful traditional Vietnamese silk costumes. Before the Mass, the congregation will venerate their ancestors in front of the ancestral altar in a ceremony featuring burning incense, chanting and beating of drums and a gong. These rituals are gestures of love and respect for their ancestors.
Cardinal Wuerl will be the principal celebrant and homilist for the New Year’s Mass, which will be celebrated in English and Vietnamese. At the conclusion of the Mass, children dressed in native costumes will offer New Year’s wishes to the elders seated in the front row and wish them “happiness, prosperity, and longevity.” In return, the children receive red envelopes with “lì xì” – translated as “lucky money.” Adults will receive small scrolls containing scripture verses from Cardinal Wuerl and the concelebrating priests.
After the Mass, members of the parish will gather in the lower level of the church for a celebration with traditional Vietnamese food, music, dancing, and a traditional pageant.
The Vietnamese New Year, commonly known as Tet, is the most important and popular holiday in Vietnamese culture, with celebrations lasting for three days or more. Tet embodies all the fundamental values of Vietnamese culture: their gratitude to God, their love and respect for their ancestors, and their sense of national unity.