No fasting for San Jose Catholics who celebrate Chinese New Year

Chicago archdiocese: we don't care if it's Valentine's Day, you still have to fast

Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco’s Chinatown (Corbett Lee/San Francisco Travel Association)

Dispensation from Abstinence for The First Day of the Lunar New Year, Feb 16, 2018

I am pleased to inform you that Bishop Patrick J. McGrath has granted a dispensation from the Lenten discipline of abstinence from meat to all the faithful of the Diocese of San Jose who will be observing Friday, February 16, the first day of the Asian New Year.

I would ask that word of this dispensation be shared with your parishioners at a date early enough to allow them to make plans for their New Year celebrations.
Thank you for your attention to this memorandum.

Best wishes to all for your upcoming celebrations.

Monsignor Francis V. Cilia

From San Jose Diocesan website.

Ash Wednesday trumps Valentine’s, Chicago archdiocese says

Occasionally, the liturgical calendar has a curious intersection with secular holidays.

This year, Ash Wednesday-which begins the penitential season of Lent with a day of fasting, abstinence, and prayer-falls on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

The Archdiocese of Chicago has clarified that Lent is more important than candy hearts, and suggested that Catholics pick some other day for paper hearts and Cupid’s arrows.

A statement released by the archdiocese explained that Catholics will not be dispensed from the laws of fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday, and suggested that Catholics planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day could do so on Feb. 13th, which is also Mardi Gras.

“The obligation of fast and abstinence must naturally be the priority in the Catholic community,” said the statement.

Full story at Crux.


  1. Anonymous says:

    What counts as “observing” the lunar new year? Do you have to be Asian to observe it? If a non-Asian observes it is that cultural appropriation? Is this a dispensation that is unfairly granted exclusively to Asians? If I wake up on that day and say to my wife, “Happy Asian new year,” have I observed it sufficiently to qualify for the dispensation so that I can enjoy bacon with breakfast, a tasty burger at lunch and a zesty steak for dinner? Why should Asian new year get this special treatment? Are any bishops in Asian countries granting similar dispensations to the faithful in their territories? If not, why is the Diocese of San Jose being so lax about Lenten disciplines? These are important questions that the ambiguous declaration…

    • Anonymous says:

      My interpretation would be that if you celebrate the Lunar New Year every year (or you have a family or social obligation to attend Lunar New Year celebrations) that would qualify you for a dispensation.
      If you do not celebrate it, you should not use the dispensation as an excuse not to abstain. God knows you and what your intentions are.

      • Your interpretation is wrong. The dispensation applies to those who will “observe” the Asian new year on Friday, February 16 irrespective of whether any observance has been made in the past or will be made again in the future. What counts as “observance” is a legitimate question. As I said, I think you could make a case that wishing “Happy Asian/lunar new year” to someone could count as observance. Do you have to go to a party on Dec 31 or Jan 1 to observe Jan 1 as New Year’s Day? No: just wish someone “Happy new year” and you’ve observed it. Same applies here.

    • By tradition, next month there is a dispensation for St. Patrick’s Day as well.

  2. Pick some other day? Why not the usual Shrove Tuesday for all the craziness? Why is everyone so afraid to celebrate Valentine or that new year before the actual date?

    • The Lunar New Year is linked to phases of the moon and cannot be changed. This is also a major cultural holiday for those who observe it (versus Valentine’s Day which is a minor holiday) and has certain traditional foods associated with it.

  3. John Patrick says:

    Very confusing statement from a bishop. What does Chinese New Year to do with the Catholic Church?

  4. PLEASE REMEMBER: Lunar New Year is celebrated all over Asia and is NOT just Chinese New Year! In English it should be referred to as the Lunar New Year! To call it Chinese New Year is equivalent to calling all Asians Chinese. Be culturally sensitive. Notice Msgr. Cilia sensitively called it Asian New Year in his letter.

    • Yes and in America, Asian usually refers only to people from Southeast Asia, which ignores most of the people from Asia. (Like Jesus) We need better terms.

    • Except Asians the world over call Chinese New Year, Chinese New Year. Better Msgr stick to things Occidental.

    • The lunar New Year was called Chinese New Year in public schools for decades. I think that is where the idea started. Probably the Chinese were the first Asians to celebrate it in public schools in California, and that is why the name stuck. Even Japanese- American public school teachers called it that. Evidently, it is better now to call it the Asian New Year since more Asian groups now celebrate it.

      The Middle East seems to celebrate the Jewish New Year and several others.

  5. Chinese New Year dispensation and dogs are nervous.

    Xīn Nián Kuài Lè.

  6. Nice going PJ. Once again nothing Catholic here!

  7. Good news: if you are in a nearby diocese or traveling in San Jose and want to eat steak for dinner on Friday, simply go to the Diocese of San Jose, wish someone there a Happy Asian new year, and go to dinner at a restaurant somewhere in the diocese. Since you would be physically within the diocese where the dispensation has been granted, it extends to you too because dispensations are interpreted broadly. So toast the lunar new year and enjoy a juicy steak. Ain’t Catholicism grand? Thanks, PJ!!!

    • If you are one of those Catholics who do the least they can get by with, it is between you and God. Advising others to do that is wrong.

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