When I was child, I was eager to celebrate the Lunar New Year because it was an occasion where grandparents and relatives would give me "lucky money" when I visited their houses to wish them a good and successful year. Lunar New Year was also the time for our parents to buy us new clothes to wear during the first days of the year.
Today, my celebration of the Lunar New Year has a significance beyond receiving money or new and beautiful clothes. Lunar New Year now is the time of reunion between Earth and heaven, between the dead and the living, and between all human beings. And it is a time of sharing with others and sharing our possessions with the poor.
The transition of time from the old year to the new is very sacred in Vietnamese culture. When the three hands of the clock meet at 12 a.m. on the first day of the new year, it is believed that there is a union or harmony between heaven and Earth. Catholics offer this time to God by attending New Year's Eve Mass. The union between God and people is expressed through the ritual of families and people choosing a piece of God's word that becomes their motto for the year.
Union between the living and deceased is also a theme of the New Year's celebration. The last week of the old year is dedicated to visiting the graves of relatives to pray, clean, offer incense or flowers, and invite the deceased home to celebrate the new year with the family. On the second day of the new year, there is a special Mass offered for the souls of our ancestors.
A final custom of the Lunar New Year is the reunion between loved ones, friends, and colleagues. These relationships are strengthened during the Lunar New Year festival by visiting each other's homes to wish friends and family good health, success, and luck. We also gather with extended family to celebrate the new year.
Upon entering religious life, our community becomes a true family. So, we remain in the convent for the first few days of the new year with our sisters, sharing with each other precious moments as we would in our other families. However, the joy of the Lunar New Year celebration must extend beyond our own families and communities.
The sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Hanoi cooperate with Caritas groups to share the gifts of the Lunar New Year with the poor. Although this sharing does not eliminate the systemic causes of poverty, we show the poor that they are included in the joy with all Vietnamese to warm their hearts and reduce their loneliness. Through the love of God, giving and reunion bring to us a deep, meaningful, and beautiful Lunar New Year.
We’re delighted to share with you this blog from the monthly feature “The Life” courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, The Life panelists reflected on the question: Does your congregation have any special or unusual favorite Christmas customs or New Year traditions? CLICK HERE to read more blogs from The Life series, GSR’s monthly feature about the unique, challenging, and very specific lives of women religious around the world.
Image above: Sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Hanoi celebrate New Year 2021. (Courtesy of Archdiocese of Ha Noi)