Simbang Gabi — Filipino for “Night Mass” — is an annual tradition held nine days before Christmas to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. 

Thousands of Filipino Catholics from across the Los Angeles Archdiocese gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for a Dec. 15 mass concelebrated by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez and other L.A. bishops. 

“In spite of all the trials and tribulations, God is always there,” said Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis of the San Pedro Region. “We often overlook the centrality of Christ in what we do. We forget the meaning of Christmas.”

Bishop Solis challenged a packed cathedral to pray in public, especially before meals. 

“Followers of Jesus are not secret agents,” he said. “We must manifest our faith in Christ.” 

He also urged Catholics to take time to read the Bible and believe in Jesus “at all costs,” even when it isn’t convenient. 

“We have to become people of conviction, ready to accept Christ as savior and redeemer of the world,” he said. 

The celebration began with parish and other groups processing into the cathedral with star lanterns they made to represent the Star of Bethlehem. 

Simbang Gabi continues until Christmas, with rosaries and Masses held at parishes throughout the archdiocese. 

Faye Reyes, a parishioner at St. Brendan, attended the celebration for the first time this year. 

“It brought me back to my childhood hearing the Filipino Christmas songs,” she said. “It’s very nice to be a Catholic.” 

Even as a child, her parents would wake her up at 4 a.m. to attend the beginning of Simbang Gabi. Traditionally, the morning Masses are followed by a celebration with food, including traditional Filipino delights like rice cakes, bibnka and puto bungbung. 

Maria Gutana, a member of the Our Lady of Grace Filipino ministry in Encino, said the Simbang Gabi celebration is usually early in the morning because of the extreme temperatures in the Philippines. 

“It’s like a celebration to give to the Lord. It’s so fitting to celebrate someone who gave his life for us,” she said. ŒΩ