Simbang Gabi: Filipino Catholics Celebrate Christmas Novena

Tags: Currents Christmas, Corpus Christi, Diocese of Brooklyn, Philippines, Prayer, Queens, NY

By Tim Harfmann

For Filipino Catholics like Princess Osma, the Simbang Gabi celebration is a countdown to Christ’s birth.

It’s a novena leading up to Christmas.

“I think it’s a really big responsibility for me to keep the culture and pass it along to people,” said Osma.

Osma and her parents are attending Corpus Christi Church in Woodside, Queens for nine straight nights of prayer.

Simbang Gabi originated in the 1600s and was called “the rooster’s Mass” because liturgies were celebrated before dawn.

The evening services are important to the 21-year-old.

“A lot of people my age, they don’t usually come to events like this. So, I think it means a lot to me to respect my parents and my culture overall,” said Osma.

Father Patrick Longalong celebrated the eighth night of the novena on December 22. A Filipino himself, he sees it as a way of evangelizing.

“There are many Filipinos who travel, who move, who migrate to different countries. We are also bringing with us our culture, our faith and our heritage,” he said.

This year, Pope Francis also became the first pontiff to celebrate Simbang Gabi at Saint Peter’s Basilica.

“Filipinos should be very proud of that! [It’s] the first time we are being recognized. Our tradition is now known all over the world. Although, wherever Filipinos are, we have the Simbang Gabi,” said Pura Gonzalez, a parishioner at Corpus Chrisit Church.

The novena ends on Christmas Eve.