TAMPA, Fla. — Hahn Ho wraps yellow flowers of the mai tree on a large oak branch.
If the mai tree cannot bloom for Lunar New Year, as it does in Vietnem, Vietnamese people separated from their homeland recreate it.
“So it’s very symbolic to our Lunar New Year to have this type of flower bloom during this time of year,” explained Hanh Ho.
Ho is one of a flood of volunteer parishioners at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Catholic Church, giving her time and energy to make their Lunar New Year event a success.
Another group of parishioners works on a stage under a large tent, and another on a traditional bamboo gate for festival goers to take pictures and walk through — which is symbolic of walking into a new year.
It’s a major fundraiser for the parish, as they renovate the church grounds they moved to in 2020.
The main church renovation will be complete in March, and the parish pastor, Father Viet Nguyen, said this year’s celebration is filled with food, cultural performances and music.
It will help the parish renovate another building on their campus into a Sunday school and a daycare for the parishioners and their neighbors.
“I’m really blessed,” said Fr. Nguyen of his parishioners. “I give thanks to God and pray for them daily. Be there in every situation that I can in the joy or in sorrow, whenever they need me, I’ll be there with them.”