Simbang Gabi: Keeping Faith During the Pandemic
It’s a yearly opportunity for families to promenade around the city at night, sample the hot street food on chilly mornings, and bond in prayer with the whole town.
Simbang Gabi is among the highlights of every Filipino’s year. Simbang gabi 2020 start from 16 December up to the day before Christmas, it’s a nine-day chain of attending Masses as early as 3 in the morning, culminating in a Mass known as Misa de Gallo.
Concerns over the pandemic have certainly changed the Simbang Gabi in 2020, but, as devout as always, Filipinos aren’t going to let a virus get in the way of one of the most anticipated holiday traditions in the entire country.
Just imagining the ice-cold chill of dawn being replaced by the warm, bustling atmosphere inside a church is sure to conjure up many bright memories. And the grogginess of waking up so early is usually dispelled by priests giving some of the most rousing sermons at this time of year.
This year, however, it seems a lot of us will be attending Simbang Gabi mass from the warmth of our own homes. This year 2020 marks as the year that Zoom, Google Meet and live streaming came into our clergymen’s vocabulary. Indeed, ‘Zoom-bang Gabi,’ or attending the early Mass through the Internet, is being recommended as a safer and more practical alternative of continuing the tradition.
There are a few precautions and guidelines that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has laid out in celebrating Simbang Gabi, due to the number of people wishing to visit Mass in person.
Churches are allowed to hold the first Mass a little later, at 6 in the morning at a limited capacity. Anticipated masses will also be held earlier, starting from 6 in the evening. These time periods will be followed for the evening Vigil Mass (24 December) and the Mass of Christmas at dawn (25 December).
And since kissing and touching Baby Jesus still poses a risk for contamination, families attending Mass in the church are advised to bring their household’s own figures or images of the infant Savior instead.
A little fun fact is that the flashy, star-shaped lanterns we call ‘parol’ are said to have been used initially during the dark Christmas mornings to guide churchgoers on their way to Mass.
Just because Simbang Gabi mass will likely be quieter and more restrained this year doesn’t mean it can’t be a bright point in our Christmas celebrations. A lot of the usual experience can be copied in the household.
Early morning snacks, for example – odds are that your local bakeries are going to warm up batches of bibingka, pan de queso, or puto at the crack of dawn. If you can manage it, buying a dozen or so baked goods for the family to pair with hot coffee Is still a top-notch treat to greet each of the holiday’s chilly mornings.
A popular belief is that completing all nine days of Simbang Gabi grants one wish to the devotee during their next novena. Needless to say, if you’ve begun the chain, you’d be better off completing it.
Simbang Gabi remains one of the most distinctive traditions of Christmas in the Philippines. It’s a period of devotion, quiet contemplation, and a little bit of sacrifice for those precious hours of sleeping in the cold season. Despite this pandemic, Filipinos can still be looking forward to Simbang Gabi in a quieter church or through livestreaming.
When does Simbang gabi 2020 start in your local church? Will you attend the Simbang gabi mass this year? Will you complete the attendance until the Misa de Gallo? Leave a comment below bayan and tell us your plan for Simbang gabi mass 2020.
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