Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Simbang Gabi at St. Patrick’s Cathedral which kicked off all the Simbang Gabi masses in the tri-state area.
As mentioned in my previous blog, Simbang Gabi has become one of the most important religious traditions, especially for Catholics in the U.S. A series of Simbang Gabi was held in one of the local community Parishes where I regularly visit. A humble missionary priest, Rev. Fr. Richard M., who has recently been assigned in NYC was tasked to officiate the said masses for the entire duration of the nine-day novena. The beauty of this kind of set-up, i.e., assigning one priest for the period covered is that it enables him to prepare and make a follow up of his prayerful talks the previous day. That was what happened in our case, Fr. Richard’s homilies served like a nine-day retreat or a series of recollection about the meaning of Advent and Christmas. The 9th day culminated the Simbang Gabi and I thought it was the most memorable and meaningful Simbang Gabi mass ever held at the said Parish. Prior to the main celebration, a brief chanting of Christmas carols was provided by the choir to have a "Christmassy" feeling in the air, so to speak!
Fr. Richard’s homily was unconventional, not just the regular talk, but there was a touch of art to it, accompanied by acting and singing presentation which required impromptu participation from the parishioners.
The liturgical music was excellent from my perspective, in fact it made the atmosphere joyful yet solemn.
Another Simbang Gabi was held at one of the consulates in NYC. Together with my choir friends, I was able to attend one Simbang Gabi at the said venue which was officiated by Msgr. Oscar Aquino of the St. Lucy's church in Manhattan.
Likewise, our group attended another evening mass at the St. Mary Gates of Heaven Parish, which can be compared like a one-day post Simbang Gabi. It was quite significant and momentous event as our group was invited and given the privilege to sing for a local community mass at the said Church for the first time in its history. Awesome indeed!
While I was excited on the first snow fall, especially at Christmas time, the blizzard warning for the East Coast was something to be worried about. I was correct as the projected 11 to 16 inches of snow was actually much heavier ranging from 17 to 31 inches within the tri-state area ( New Jersey, New York and Connecticut) and affected thousands of people.
According to tri-media reports, yesterday's blizzard left thousands of families with no power and electricity, operation of major airports and railways were shut down stranding so many passengers and official and business establishments have been closed, crippling the economy at least for a day.
(car dumped under the snow-photo property of myusefultips.com)
(lower part of house covered with snow/photo property of myusefultips.com)
The magnitude of the snowstorm was so enormous, as a matter of fact, a photo of it was taken from NASA’s satellite focusing on the Washington, D.C. area.
So far, the Christmas blizzard which hit NYC was one of the biggest in the city’s blizzard history. In our area, we had to plow the snow falls from our front, sides and back yards.
(My foot/snow shoe stuck on a snow hole)
While there were ill effects on some of the residents and travelling visitors of NYC, the snow fall accumulation gave the teens and kids who are now in their winter breaks together with their families the opportunity to go to nearby parks and enjoy playing in the snow with their sled, just like what others did!
(the following photos are property of myusefultips.com)
When I was young, I am always amazed of hearing Christmas stories about Winterland and White Christmas. It is probably because of my innocence about the subject matter and likewise my fondness of white things such as snow.
When I learned a week ago from the AccuWeather forecast that NYC may experience White Christmas Day, I had this secret feeling of joy inside me just like a kid! I like the fact that there will be real snow falls or snow flakes to watch from my window…..and then all of a sudden Santa Klaus comes in and knocks at the door to bring me presents! Oh, there I go…………….!
To my dismay, there was no snow on Christmas Day! Although, there were on and off flurries before that, but nothing of it stuck, in fact it never reached the land as it already melted while falling down. That Christmas day however, I checked my weather alert in one of my gadgets and I’ve learned that there’s going to be heavy snow fall the day after Christmas ….and YES, that's today!
I went outside to hear Sunday mass and a powdery granular snow (not the cotton like snow) surprised me, dropping some of it on my face. It started enveloping the roads and streets with a white blanket, making them like a long winding and never been used ice skating rink, pure and immaculate!
I loved seeing them making the trees look like white Christmas trees with icicles hanging on its branches. Just after the ceremony however, the gentle powdery thing-like, became harsh when it was accompanied by a strong wind. It was sort of a dune moving quickly over a white desert. It has turned into a winter storm, a blizzard based on weather forecasters report. From today and tomorrow (Monday) , a blizzard warning has been issued that about 11 to 16 inches of snow, accompanied by strong winds and gusts over 35 mph , making the roads sometimes at zero visibility will be experienced by the city.
It would definitely be good to stay at home during this time, its cozy especially with warm clothes, new winter socks, a cup of hot tea with your computer, ipod , a movie to watch or a nice book to read make it a picture perfect. Just what Im doing now!
Oh, never mind the thick snow to plow thereafter, the slippery roads when the snow becomes icy and starts to melt and likewise the after Christmas retail sales, what is important is that I have enjoyed the day of the first real snow fall in 2010!
Singing Christmas Carols? Has anyone of you experienced this before?
As Christmas day is almost upon us, I would like to share with you my nostalgic recollection and happy memories of Christmas carols when I was still small. Some of my siblings, friends and I would go practically from door-to-door of our neighbors singing Christmas carols. After school, we gathered at our house and practiced the songs with so much gusto. Innocent kids as we were, there were instances where we simply couldn’t pronounce the words very well and it was so funny as most of the times, we butchered the lyrics of the songs, specifically Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Joy To The World and Whispering Hope! We were already resourceful at that time, we brought along our toy tambourines, improvised maracas or just a plain tin can or a bottle of a famous brand of soda/soft drinks with a piece of stick which serve as our accompaniment. Normally, the consolation and reward depended on the economic status of the family. There were times we get a pack of candies, chocolates, biscuits or cookies or if we’re lucky enough some paper bills and coins, otherwise we would only get a simple “thank you” with a smile, a plain “sorry, come back next time” or a lights off and a no response at all!. While the most important thing was the joy of singing and being with friends, the tangible reward however made it more appealing and it was sort of an achievement on our part! Oh, those were the days my friends but the thoughts still linger!
Caroling is truly a wonderful tradition in almost all of the places celebrating Christmas, particularly in the place where I came from. In the U.S., caroling is also being undertaken by certain groups but it is more on a professional level. You don’t see kids going from house-to-house for caroling here. As a matter of fact, before going to a particular family or an organization, there is a need to seek prior clearance for them to carol. You can’t just walked into and intrude their privacy. As such, there’s quite a big difference in embracing this beautiful tradition!
My friends had a ready roster of families and non-profit organizations (e.g. nursing homes, veterans group, retirement homes, etc.) to carol during weekends, as all of them are career oriented individuals (e.g. doctors, nurses, people in the academe. office workers,etc.) and therefore are pre-occupied with their respective professional lives during weekdays.
(photo property of myusefultips.com)
I had the chance to go with them and experienced my very first time caroling in NYC for fund raising reasons. It was like a mini concert performance actually with our color red and black attire with matching elf hats.
It was both fun and a sacrifice for all the carolers. I say fun because of the festive mood whenever we started raising full voices in songs to the delight of the audience! I remember there was one old man in a wheelchair who commented after the performance, “Oh, I have to wait for another year again to watch and hear your beautiful songs and voices! Then he waved goodbye at us, misty eyed, and said "Keep on singing!” That was a touching scene for me! Similarly, the families where we visited warmly welcomed and treated us with sumptuous delicious dinner and they get
get the chance to sing with us too. (photos property of myusefultips.com)
They also look forward to seeing us again next Christmas season! What a way to compliment!
A sacrifice because it means the carolers have to forego rest and leisure time, brave the chilly windy nights, go home late and set aside family bonding time during weekends just to accommodate caroling schedules. It was also real fun and fulfilling as apart from making people happy, the proceeds are either donated to the church for humanitarian purposes or utilized for the group’s prospective worthy projects.
Indeed, caroling is one great way of spreading the spirit, love, peace, joy and kindness during Yuletide season.
I hope with the fun and amazing experience I had on the subject, you'll now be convinced to also join caroling groups in your locality either this year (it’s not that late yet) or probably plan for next year's caroling festivities.
Caroling is truly a worth keeping tradition regardless of where ever we are in all corners of the globe! Greatly appreciate receiving your thoughts on this.
I recall my first Simbang Gabi (or Mass at Dawn) in NYC, I braved the winter chills and the snowy weather just to complete the 9-day novena mass. That was quite a sacrifice for me as I have to travel for an hour after a busy day just to make it there on time. As a matter of fact I was constrained to write something about it as a memento as it was my very first in a foreign land and after a long respite from attending the celebration. Fortunately, the said write-up was published in one of the newsletters of one of the local community groups here in NYC. I could have just re-posted it here to give you a glimpse of what the tradition is all about, regrettably however, the draft has already been deleted from the files and the copy of the newsletter where it was posted has already been archived or disposed of.
While Simbang Gabi’s literal meaning in English is “Midnight or Evening Mass”, it is however translated and notably called Dawn Mass. But in NYC, Simbang Gabi is not exactly held at dawn or in the wee hours of the morning for obvious reasons (e.g. cold weather, etc.) unlike in other countries like Mexico and the Philippines where it is normally held early hours in the morning usually at 4:00 a.m.. Do you know that this tradition began in Mexico in late 1500’s and this is normally culminated by the so-called Misa de Gallo or Mass of the Gifts?
The Simbang Gabi is actually held 9 days before Christmas (could be Dec. 15 or 16 depending on circumstances) but the annual celebration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is normally held either the first Sunday of December or the first Sunday of Advent. It kicks-off in effect, sort of a sneak preview of, all Simbang Gabi celebrations around NYC!
Two nights ago, I attended the 2010 Annual Simbang Gabi at the St.Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. The theme for this year was “Ang Belen” or “The Nativity Scene”: “A Picture Perfect for Obedience and Humility.
One of our groups was among the choir which rendered the liturgical music together with musical talents such as violinists and up-and-coming singers. It was a well represented choir, there was one from the Queens Borough, The Himig at Alay Choir, another from Bronx, The Santa Maria Choir and one from Manhattan, The Ka-Lungsod ni San Lorenzo Choir from the San Lorenzo Ruiz Church.
Most of the songs were Christmas and Advent related hymns, in preparation for Christ’s coming, examples of which were “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”, "Silent Night" and "Gumising". It was actually like Christmas Eve already as the atmosphere and the people around were in jovial and festive mood. In fact, the mass celebrant, His Eminence Cardinal Edward Egan, was pleased to see the kids’ participants dressed like angels and shepherds.
(photos are properties of www.myusefultips.com)
It was also nice to see majoirty of the Filipino priests serving in NYC concelebrating the mass, with Fr.Joseph Marabe incidentally as the one spearheading the event. During the offertory procession, the community offered monetary and non-monetary items which could then be donated to the needy.
(photos are properties of www.myusefultips.com)
I understand food was everywhere for everyone but since I called it a night, I left early without having a taste of the yummy native delicacies served on the table – sigh!
(photos property of www.myusefultips.com)
While there were some glitches which have been observed during the celebration, it was quite successful however in general.
(photos are properties of www.myusefultips.com)
It is noteworthy that the Simbang Gabi tradition continues regardless of where we are. What’s imperative however, is what is inside our hearts, it is neither our plan to complete the 9-day novena nor the thought that we really have to do it because we were used to it. There’s a profounder meaning to it, it is something about our faith in God, in the right manner as much as possible. Since Simbang Gabi is celebrated during the Advent season, we are actually requested to prepare and be watchful for Jesus’ coming. And the preparation would entail good deeds, not limiting it to the family circle, but to everyone, especially those in need. Obedience and humility is this year’s Simbang Gabi theme and it simply shows the significance of Jesus giving up Himself for His love for us, and choosing to be born unnoticed in a lowly manger.
The said nativity scene should serve as our model on how to make our lives more significant, particularly in this age of plenty and consumerism/materialism. I ‘m going to say it once again, I know it is difficult to be holy these days, and I for one is struggling very hard to be good and not to remain deaf and blind to the cries of people dying of hunger, thirst, war, disease, domestic violence and terrorism.
I hope my dear readers let's try to exert our best efforts to respond to to this plea! I wish you all a Happy and Meaningful Advent!