‘Simbang Gabi’ gaining popularity in other countries

The Philippine tradition of Simbang Gabi (dawn mass) is getting popular abroad. Philstar.com photo by Michael Varcas

Simbang Gabi (dawn mass) has always been a popular tradition during Christmas in the Philippines, but it is now getting popular in other countries as well — enough that Filipino priests are being requested to celebrate the mass abroad during the Yuletide season.

According to Archdiocese of Manila Office of Communications head Fr. Roy Belen, Filipino Catholics based in other countries also want to experience the traditional dawn masses and they want a Filipino priest to be the celebrant.

“I have been hearing of Filipino priests being ‘borrowed’ from Manila to hold nine-day dawn masses in other countries because their chaplains are not Filipinos so they would not understand the Filipino culture,” Belen said on Wednesday, December 19.

He noted that they would be writing to the priests and inviting them to officiate the dawn masses abroad as early as September or October. They would also be seeking permission from the priest’s bishop or parish priest.

Belen also said that aside from Rome, Italy, some parts of the United States, as well as the Middle East, observe the nine-day Simbang Gabi, which runs from December 16 to 24.

There have also been some instances where the priest would be asked to stay until the New Year.

Despite the shortage of priests in Manila and the high demand for priests during the busy month of December, Belen said priests are allowed to travel abroad during this time.

In Rome, they would at times seek permission from the pope for permission to hold the Simbang Gabi at St. Peter’s Basilica, since many Filipinos consider attending at least one dawn mass as part of their celebration of Christmas.

While some nationalities hold their Simbang Gabi at night, there are others who don’t.
“You have to understand that the staff (in the church) are not Filipinos so you would be disturbing them just to be able to hold early morning masses,” Belen said.

Simbang Gabi usually takes place between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., while anticipated dawn masses are held between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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