Thousands of Filipino Catholics from throughout Southern California celebrated the beginning of the 16th Simbang Gabi, one of the oldest Filipino Christmas traditions, with a special Mass on Saturday, December 15 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., in downtown Los Angeles. 

Archbishop José H. Gomez presided at the liturgy, presented by the Filipino Ministry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Mass begins nine days of prayer for peace, unity, and family, leading up to Christmas.

“With these 9 days of Simbang Gabi, we get ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas Day,” said Archbishop Gomez. “This is a special day for all of us in the Church in Los Angeles, because we are celebrating the proud and rich Catholic faith of our Filipino brothers and sisters and their deep roots here.”

The Mass was preceded by the traditional music band that leads the “Parade of Parols,” or lanterns, of more than 130 parishes from the five pastoral regions in the tri-county Archdiocese (LA, Santa Barbara and Ventura).

The parols, a Philippine Christmas symbol, were blessed at the end of the Mass. In the Philippines, the parol is used to light up people’s homes and is carried by parishioners attending Simbang Gabi Mass, or “Mass before dawn.” The procession included parols of religious Filipino-American organizations, civic and professional organizations, and government offices, usually led by the Philippine Consulate General.

The Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi dates back nearly 500 years.  It begins nine nights before Christmas Eve. An Advent Mass is celebrated before dawn each night in preparation for Christmas.

A full list of Simbang Gabi celebrations throughout the Archdiocese is here.

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