New lunar Year of the Tiger begins with prayer, festivities

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Photo by Alan M. Dumoff/More photos www.ccdphotoalbum.com

lunarnewyear1-webFather Joseph L. Pham (front row), Father Jaime E. Hostios and parishioners lead a celebration of the lunar new year on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Atlantic City.

Pope Benedict XVI welcomed the lunar new year and praised the spiritual and moral values of the Asian people who celebrate it.

The new lunar Year of the Tiger began Feb. 14 with festivities including fireworks displays, colorful processions, traditional dances and holiday food in many countries across the world.

Vietnamese Catholics in Atlantic City celebrated the holiday on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church with Mass and and a joyful reception.

Pope Benedict made his comments two days earlier. “In various parts of Asia — I think of China and Vietnam, for example — and in many communities throughout the world, the lunar new year is celebrated today,” he said.

“These are festive days, celebrated by these populations as a privileged opportunity to strengthen family and generational bonds,” the pope said at his noon blessing.

“I hope that all will maintain and build up the rich heritage of spiritual and moral values that are solidly rooted in the culture of these peoples,” he said.

The Chinese new year is an important holiday that calls for feasting, spending time with family and giving gifts. In many communities, the celebrations start with a traditional dragon and lion dance to the beat of a drum, ensuring prosperity for the new year.

The Year of the Tiger, the third in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, represents year 4708 on the calendar used by Asian countries.