The following comes from a Dec. 18 story in Angelus News.

Thousands of Filipino Catholics from throughout Southern California celebrated the beginning of Simbang Gabi, one of the oldest Filipino Christmas traditions, with a special Mass this evening at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. Archbishop José H. Gomez presided at the liturgy presented by the Filipino Ministry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“I pray that these coming days will be a beautiful time for your families to draw closer and to renew your love for one another in Jesus Christ,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Above all in this beautiful season, let’s try to make Christ’s presence felt in the hearts and lives of others. Let’s try to be a source of hope and optimism for other people.”

The Mass was preceded by the traditional music band leading the “Parade of Parols,” or lanterns, of 125 parishes from the five pastoral regions throughout the tri-county Archdiocese (Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles).

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.”

Following Communion, about 40 Filipino priests joined on the altar to sing traditional Simbang Gabi songs. This year’s theme, “Jesus, Light for our Shepherds, with Mary, Lead Us All to Holiness’ (Hesus, Tanglaw Para sa Aming Mga Pastol, Kasama ni Maria, Akayin Mo Kaming Lahat Sa Kabanalan), reflects on renewal of our relationship with Christ, to light the life of others by giving and helping out those in need.