Lucky money is passed out during Lunar New Year celebration at Our Lady of Lavang Parish. 
Lucky money is passed out during Lunar New Year celebration at Our Lady of Lavang Parish. 

May your “happiness grow infinitely” was one of the wishes for the congregants of Our Lady of Lavang Church during Saturday night’s Lunar New Year Mass. Parish leaders wished attendees health, good spirits and a year full of God’s peace and blessings at the Mass and celebration, which pair Vietnamese New Year customs with Catholic tradition.

This was Archbishop John G. Vlazny’s final Lunar New Year Mass as leader of the church in Western Oregon, so members of Lavang held a special presentation. Parish representatives presented the archbishop with a vase engraved with the words, “In gratitude for your pastoral care and love and support of the Our Lady of Lavang Parish.”

He beamed and joked, “I can get a really big mocha at Starbucks.”

The archbishop concelebrated with the priests of the church, members of the Domus Dei Clerical Society of Apostolic Life, and other visiting clergy.

Two children, representing the 1,000 students in Lavang School, stood before the crowd and read a special note they’d written for the archbishop and their community. Afterward, children were invited to come forward to collect red envelopes filled with lucky money.

Next door in the parish hall, dragon dancers kicked off the celebration portion of the night. The crowd cheered in delight as the dragons popped into the air and weaved around the room to the beat of a large drum.

The dragon dance tradition brings prosperity and luck, as well as joy and happiness, according Haw Le. He is a graduate of Lavang School who is part of the dragon dance group because he feels it’s important to stay connected to the Lavang community.

“We’re close and everybody knows each other,” he said.

Emcees Agnes Diem-Khanh Le and Father Peter Khoi-Anh Doan kept the crowd laughing between performances, inviting first the Vietnamese Eucharistic Society forward for a flag dance, followed by a performance by members of the Youth Ministry for fan dance and a number choreographed with umbrellas.

When the Sisters Adorers of the Holy Cross streamed into the room and started a hat dance, the crowd went crazy. As the Lavang School teachers twirled rice paddy hats to “Symphony of the Spring,” their students cheered, and yelled “We love you!

During the performances, volunteers carried around trays of cookies and plates with servings of bánh chưng. Though the indispensible Tết recipe takes more than 10 hours to prepare, parishioners made 2,500 of the sticky rice cakes for the celebration. They are filled with pork and mung bean and wrapped in banana leaves.