One of the many Christmas masses celebrated over the past weekend was a mass for the Vietnamese community celebrated by Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka in Prague’s Žižkov district. It was dedicated to the Feast of the Holy Family and attended by over a thousand Vietnamese who have embraced the Christian faith.
There are over 60 thousand Vietnamese scattered around the Czech Republic. While most profess allegiance to Buddhism or Taoism around ten percent of them have embraced the Christian faith and traditionally celebrate Christmas with the majority population. Six years ago the Catholic Church launched the tradition of serving a special Christmas mass for the Vietnamese community to which people flock from around the country.
This year the mass was served by the Archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka and devoted to the Feast of the Holy Family. The archbishop said that in the close-knit Vietnamese community this is a message that strikes an instant rapport, moreover at a time of economic uncertainty.
“Many people are concerned about the impacts of a possible recession – how will I manage on my pension, who will give me a helping hand in the event of illness –and it is clear that people who do not have a family to rely on will be much worse off.”
Christmas in Vietnam has had a tumultuous history. The Catholics are a minority, dating back to the days of French rule, but they were left to celebrate Christmas freely until the Communists took power in 1975. After that relations between the Church and state soured and Catholics were relegated to celebrating Jesus’s birthday in the privacy of their homes. Those abroad remain close-knit and the Catholic Church is happy to meet their needs with an individual mass –for the Vietnamese mass has certain specific rituals foreign to Czech believers. Archbishop Dominic Duka:
“The Catholic Vietnamese community adds colour which the Czech Catholic Church is happy to embrace.”
While most Czechs enjoy a Christmas dinner of fried carp – the
Vietnamese community generally favours turkey as the main Christmas dish
–but the remaining traditions – especially present giving – are
identical – not least because many Vietnamese children born here are as
Czech as they are Vietnamese.