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 Several hundred thousand firecrackers arranged over a 280-foot area were ignited, creating ample smoke and cacophony that had some covering their ears and others cheering in approval.

 Father Khan Ngo, parochial vicar of the parish, took the lead in getting approval to light the fireworks. He said in Asian culture, the fireworks have a symbolic purpose in the New Year celebration.

 “The firecrackers are to drive out the evil spirits,” he said, “start out the new year fresh.”

 Also holding Lunar New Year celebrations were St. Mary, Fontana; Our Lady of Hope, San Bernardino; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Riverside; Shrine of the Presentation, Corona; St. Joseph, Fontana; St. Francis of Assisi, La Quinta and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Winchester.

 Most held Liturgies followed by festivities that included musical entertainment, dance, traditional Asian foods and balloon animals for the young ones. Attendees received packets of flower seeds to signify that beginning of the New Year. Many plucked small scrolls of scripture passages from the yellow cherry blossom tree or Hoa Mai.

 The Lunar New Year celebration represents a rare opportunity for Asian Catholics from across many generations to come together. Kris Mai, a catechist at St. George, prepared a group of Vietnamese children in traditional dress to sing and dance to the song “Chuc Tet Ong Ba.”

 “The young people don’t have that many chances to see cultural events like this,” said Mai. “They learn from these songs.”

 St. George parishioner, Mai Truong, in traditional Vietnamese dress, conversed with her son, clad in typical teen attire, as they watched the celebration that packed the parish hall. She said the Lunar New Year is nearly as big as the Christmas and Easter celebrations for Vietnamese Catholics.

 “It’s a way to thank God for the year ahead,” Truong said. “Everything is new.”