Everything We Saw at Marian Days in Carthage, Missouri [PHOTOS]
By Reuben Hemmer
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 43rd annual Marian Days returned to Carthage, MO. Primarily a Vietnamese American Roman Catholic pilgrimage, the four-day gathering is also a celebration of Vietnamese culture and tradition. Well over 10,000 people from all over the world flocked to the small southwest Missouri town to partake in religious ceremonies, celebrate heritage, and reconnect with loved ones.
The history of Marian Days began in 1975, when Vietnamese clergy members arrived in the northwest Arkansas as refugees of the Vietnam War. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield–Cape Girardeau sponsored the clergy members, and invited them to rent a vacant seminary in Carthage, MO. Over time the congregation grew as did the festivities. The first Marian Days took place in 1978 and brought in 1,500 attendees — in 2011 there were 60,000 people in attendance.
Beginning on the first Thursday of August, pilgrims set up large encampments on the seminary grounds as well as the front yards of local homes. Despite temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees this year, attendees created a community within their tents by constructing large kitchens to cook Vietnamese cuisine, markets to sell religious & secular items, areas to enjoy drinks while singing karaoke, and cots to relax or escape the heat. The highlight of the event is on Saturday, where guests participate in a procession in honor of Our Lady of Fatima. This is followed by long rows of firecrackers being lit, a release of many balloons, an outdoor mass, and well known Vietnamese musicians performing for the crowd. Marian Days ends with a religious service on Sunday, and a mass exodus of thousands returning to their homes.