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The Wichita Eagle, Kan. – February 7, 2008
Feb. 7–Before the colorful Dragon Dance, the passing out of “lucky money” and the shooting of fireworks in celebration of the lunar new year, members of the Phap Hoa Temple gathered in the shrine for prayer on Wednesday.
Called together by the ringing of bells and chanting, temple members knelt before photos of their deceased loved ones. They lit incense sticks, offered the spirits food and drink, chanted, played music and bowed before those photos.
The ritual — a “welcoming” of their deceased ancestors — was the beginning of Wednesday’s event, put on by the Wichita Buddhist Association in recognition of the lunar new year, which begins today.
Temple leaders and members say that the spiritual element is an important piece of the celebration.
“Usually in the new year, people wish people prosperity, health, good luck,” said temple member Anh Tran.
But, she said, “celebrating the new year also… reminds us Buddhists to become better spiritually.”
The welcoming ceremony is important, Tran said, because Buddhists want family members to see how their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are doing.
“We invite them to come back to celebrate,” she said.
The temple also held a repentance ceremony. It’s done twice a month, but the one on the eve of the new year celebration takes on deeper meaning, temple master Thich Giac Minh said through a translator.
“Everyone has something that they did wrong,” he said through translator Lynnsie Nguyen. “You’re praying, not only asking for forgiveness from Buddha, but you’re also asking for forgiveness from yourself.”
Minh also said that even such activities as shooting fireworks and the well-known Dragon Dance have special meanings.
The dance “is to show strength, to bring joy to the people, and good energy,” Minh said.
The fireworks are shot “to dissolve all of the bad stuff from your life,” he said. “The loud sounds will scare it away.”
Even though activities were to end by 2 a.m. today, the celebration — including its spiritual aspects — continues.
On Saturday and Sunday, more chanting is scheduled. On Sunday afternoon, the temple will hold a “beginning of the New Year food offering” and a farewell ceremony to ancestors.
“The spiritual side,” Minh said, “is very, very important.”
Copyright (c) 2008, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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