By Christine Bordelon
The Vietnamese community in New Orleans will celebrate its Lunar New Year a little longer this year than in previous years.
Van Pham, pastoral council president at St. Joseph Church in Algiers, said even though this year’s Lunar New Year isn’t actually until Feb. 16, two local Catholic parishes with a Vietnamese population are hosting celebrations in January.
“We will be celebrating longer than most years,” Pham said of the month-long festivities. The date of the new year changes annually – usually between mid-January to mid-February – due to the lunar calendar.
In 2018, St. Joseph Church kicked off its three-day festival Jan. 12-14.
Pham said this is the “Year of the Dog,” based on the Chinese 12-year animal zodiac cycle.
Symbol of fidelity, kindness
“The dog is supposed to be very intelligent and loyal,” Pham said. “In fact, I talked to the parish’s Ave Maria Choir on Jan. 1 and wished them a happy Year of the Dog and told them to continue to be loyal to the church, the choir and to each other. Those born in this year of the dog are supposed to be smart, loyal and also humble – all the good qualities.”
The new year festival will continue at St. Agnes Le Thi Thanh Church, 6851 St. Le Thi Thanh St. in Marrero, Jan. 26 from 6-10:30 p.m., Jan. 27 from noon-10:30 p.m. and Jan. 28 from 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
The final site of the Vietnamese New Year festival will be Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, 14001 Dwyer Blvd. in eastern New Orleans. Hours are Feb. 23, 6-11 p.m.; Feb. 24, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; and Feb. 25, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Pham said the festival will showcase Vietnam’s past as a French province until Vietnam’s independence in 1954 as well as mix the local Vietnamese culture in Louisiana through a variety of cuisines that blend Vietnamese, French and local Cajun influences.
He gave examples of the food that St. Joseph Parish prepares annually for the festival: Banh Mi (po-boys on baguettes of which St. Joseph orders 5,000 for the weekend and sells out by noon on Sunday); 2,500 pounds of boneless and marinated (with lemon-grass, soy-sauce and sugar) pork to make Vietnamese shish kabobs on a stick; hot pots of pho; Vietnamese crepes; famous spicy Vietnamese vermicelli beef soup called Bun Bo Hue (originally from Hue, the former capital of Vietnam); and sugar cane juice (200 bundles of sugar cane is peeled by St. Joseph parishioners, ground and the juice is squeezed out).
Seafood prepared in various ways such as raw oysters, charbroiled oysters, fish, shrimp also will be sold at all festival locations.
“We have so many dishes, and everything is made from scratch,” Pham said.
For festival details at St. Agnes Le Thi Thanh Church, call Michael Dang at 982-6315. For details at Mary Queen of Vietnam, call Tho Nguyen at 317-4595.