The Expat Holidays: Simbang Gabi


It occurred to me today that I’ve lived in the US for eight months, but it feels like I’ve been away from home for longer than that. I still long for Manila on some days, but I’m especially feeling it more now that the Christmas season has commenced. This year is the third time (second as a married couple) Roan and I are spending the holidays together, and while we haven’t exactly established a tradition of our own, we’ve started following through with one that my family (and most Filipinos) have been observing for years.

Giant Christmas Tree in University of Santo Tomas (Paskuhan 2014)
Santisimo Rosario Church in University of Santo Tomas (Paskuhan 2014)

In case you didn’t know, the Spanish colonization in the Philippines in 1521 marked the beginning of Catholicism in the country. I come from a very traditional family, and the majority of things we do when Christmas comes around is influenced by my religious background. With that said, Roan and I have completed the 9-day novena masses, also known as Simbang Gabi, which actually starts tonight, on the 15th of December.

University of Santo Tomas Grand Stand (Paskuhan 2014)

Simbang Gabi is practiced in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in anticipation of Christmas. It is often confused with Misa de Gallo or “Rooster’s Mass”, which starts at dawn on December 16. It is believed that the completion of all nine days will result to a wish come true. Wish or no wish, we personally find it compelling to dedicate nine days of devotion to the Lord (besides Sunday service) as our way of giving thanks for the blessings received throughout the entire year.

I have yet to experience how people celebrate Christmas here in the US, but I am grateful that we belong to a community, mostly run by Filipinos, who shares the same tradition as ours. I’m sure it’s going to be a tad bit different, but having Roan to share this tradition with makes me feel closer to home.

Thank you so much, Annie of MontgomeryFest, for inviting me to participate in The Expat Holidays series.
Follow along on other expats’ stories on Twitter with the hashtag, #TheExpatHolidays!

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