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A L L A R E W E L C O M E
(See back for interesting background story on Simbang Gabi)
WHAT IS SIMBANG GABI???
It is a beautiful Advent tradition that captures the expectant, excited, spiritual waiting that pervades Advent – the precursor of Christmas. It is a vibrant expression of unity and community.
Many parishes in the diocese will fittingly mark Christmas preparation with an Advent Novena of Masses, popularly called “Simbang Gabi” (Filipino for “night mass”, indicating it being held when dark). It is one of the oldest and most popular among the Filipino traditions in the Philippines. Simbang Gabi is a nine-day novena to the expectant Blessed Mother. The novena begins on December 16, and culminates with the “Misa de Gallo” ("gallo", Spanish word for rooster, which crows at break of dawn) on Christmas Eve. In some churches, the “panuluyan” (lodging search) – Las Posadas in Mexico - is reenacted showing the effort of Joseph and Mary to find a suitable birthplace.
ORIGIN: It was in or about 1660, during the early years of Christianity in the Philippines, that the "Simbang Gabi" and the "Misa de Gallo" became a Filipino religious tradition. During Advent, in preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, the missionary friars held nine days of Masses to usher in the event of Christ’s birth. These Masses were celebrated in the early morning hours (typically at about 4:00 a.m.!), when the roosters crow to announce the coming of a new day.
During the olden times, the pre-dawn mass was announced by the ringing of the church bells. In some rural areas, an hour before the start of Simbang Gabi, a brass band played Christmas music all over the town. It is also believed that parish priests would go as far knocking on doors to wake and gather the faithful. Farmers as well as fishermen woke up early to hear the Gospel before going to their work, and ask for the grace of a good harvest.
SIMBANG GABI THEN AND NOW: Changing times have not broken the tradition of celebrating Simbang Gabi. Although it is celebrated in new ways, it still lives on. Part of it is the colorful lights and lanterns that fill every street. Beautiful “parols” (Star Lanterns) are hung in every window. Songs of the season, well-loved, old ones and newer, contemporary ones - many in the Filipino language - are played everywhere to warm the heart. Families, friends, and individuals find their way to the nearest church to attend the nine-day novena. Shortly after the Christmas eve “misa de gallo”, families gather in their homes to celebrate “Noche Buena” (good night) and feast on various delicacies like queso de bola (cheese ball), bibingka and puto bungbong (rice cakes), or a drink of salabat (ginger tea) or hot coco.
SIMBANG GABI IN THE U.S: Simbang Gabi was brought to the US by Filipino Americans to share with their communities, the spiritual richness of the celebration. Many parishes across the country, including those in the diocese of San Jose, celebrate Simbang Gabi in the very early morning in keeping with the tradition, but can be in the evening to accommodate working Catholics, so that all can join and participate in the celebration. The spirituality of Simbang Gabi calls us to nurture the spirit of Advent not only as individual preparation, but to prepare as a community, a family of God united in worship and in prayer. We bring our families and friends to the Eucharist, joining the entire community in waiting, and being strengthened by God’s Spirit in preparing for the birth of Jesus.
Simbang Gabi Flyer 2014