Catholic churches celebrate Simbang Gabi, a Filipino tradition

Courtesy of Sally Ramos, Federal Way resident

The Philippine tradition of Simbang Gabi, which means getting up early, walking through town carrying brightly-colored starts or lanterns called “parols” and gathering together for mass at early dawn for nine consecutive days to prepare for the coming of Jesus.

This tradition, except for the mass at early dawn, is being carried on here in Federal Way Catholic churches, St. Theresa’s and St. Vincent.

The original Simbang Gabi was called the “Misa de Aurea” or the “Angels’ Mass.” In 1587, Fray Diego Soria, prior of the San Agustin Convent, petitioned the Pope for permission to hold Christmas Masses outdoors because the church could not accommodate the multitude that attended the services. The request was granted through a rescript in the 17th Century.

The Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi became a Filipino spiritual tradition thereafter. Vatican II encouraged the church in the Philippines to continue the tradition and uphold its significant role in the life of the people. Filipino Americans brought the Simbang Gabi to the United States and other countries and found it to be an effective way to build a community faith.

Simbang Gabi is a wonderful opportunity to help us prepare for and wait with Mary in prayerful anticipation of the birth of her son Jesus Christ. The commissioning of the festivity started at St. James Cathedral in Seattle on Dec. 10 where almost all Catholic churches of the Archdiocese of Seattle are represented for the blessing of their “parols” by the archbishop.

On Dec. 14, Wednesday, St. Theresa’s parish will have their Simbang Gabi celebration with a special mass at 6 p.m. and at St. Vincent on Dec. 17, Saturday, at 5 p.m. At the mass celebration, children will be carrying the star lanterns at the procession, songs will be sung by the Filipino youth choir in Tagalog — the native language of the Philippines. After the mass, native foods and delicacies will be served.

For a complete list of Simbang Gabi Masses in the Archdiocese of Seattle, please visit


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