Saturday, December 17, 2016

Our Simple Christmas Decor and the Simbang Gabi

Christmas Tree-With Outside View facing the Picture Window in our living room.

When our children were growing up and our residence have cathedral ceilings, our Christmas tree every year was a living tree which varies in height from at least 8 to 15 feet. When we retired in 2002, I found it ecologically relevant not to decorate with cut living trees. Therefore, since my retirement in 2002 to the present, we decorate our home with a simple and a small artificial Christmas tree. Decorating with an artificial tree is not messy ( no dropping pine needles) and no watering is required. Our Parol and Belen are however all made and imported from the Philippines. The following are five photos showing our simple Christmas d├ęcor in our Living Room.

Christmas Tree-Side View

Another Side View of Tree with Cyclamen in Bloom

Close-up showing family photos and white house tree ornaments

Our Wooden ( lanzones wood) Belen from Paete, Laguna-the Belen is the Pilipino representation of the Nativity scene.


Yesterday, December 16 was the start of Simbang Gabi in the Philippines. The “Simbang Gabi” is a long treasured Philippine tradition originally a series of “dawn masses” for nine consecutive days before Christmas Day. Its liturgical significance emanates from the Season of Advent, being the time of spiritual preparation and purification to worthily welcome and receive the Child Jesus in our midst. The Mass at Dawn, Simbang Gabi, is a nine-day novena to the Blessed Mother. It starts every December 16th and is one of the longest and most important religious celebrations in the Philippines that has lasted over 600 years.

The Simbang Gabi is a time when Catholic churches across the Philippines celebrate mass outdoors in order to accommodate the faithful. At times, when mass is not celebrated outside, the doors of churches are, nevertheless, left wide open to allow attendants to share in the atmosphere of the mass. Its origins began in Mexico, where the practice of holding mass outdoors began, first, in 1587, when the Pope gave permission to Diego de Soria, a Mexican friar, to hold mass outdoors because the churches could not accommodate the huge number of worshipers that came to celebrate Christmas. The novena culminates, on the ninth day, with the Mass of the Gifts, or Misa de Gallo, which celebrates the birth of Jesus.

However, it was not until 1669, during the early years of Christianity, in the Philippines, that the Misa de Gallo became a Philippine spiritual tradition. During Advent, in preparation for the birth of Christ, missionary friars held pre-dawn masses for nine consecutive days, to usher in the event of Jesus' birth. The masses were celebrated very early, usually at 4 in the morning, since they took place during the harvest season, when farmers had to be in the fields at the crack of dawn. The word gallo means rooster, in Spanish. At the first sound of dawn, at the crowing of the rooster, the entire family would get up and walk to the nearest parish church.

During this time, colorful lanterns are hung in every door, window, tree branch, and street corner. Bands play native carols all across town while families, couples, and individuals make their way to the nearest church. Shortly after the mass, people gather in their homes to celebrate Noche Buena and feast on local delicacies made of rice flour, coconut milk and other traditional deserts.

Here in the United States, Filipino immigrants brought with them this distinct tradition which is slowly taking roots and thus the observance of this time honored spiritual and cultural tradition has grown significantly in California, New York, Chicago, New Jersey and even in the Hampton Roads to the point where it has now earned a strong and unequivocal support. Halina Hesus, Halina! (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)

Source for Simbang Gabi: www2.richmomddioscese.org Enjoy the following short video!

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