Christmas comes early for Filipino worshippers

Dawn worshippers at Our Lady of Dolours Church, Chatswood (SBS/FCCP)

Only the most dedicated make their way up the church steps at the crack of dawn. But these Filipinos are committed Catholics and relentlessly positive, SBS News reports.

Around 150 worshipers arrived at Our Lady of Dolours Church in Chatswood, in Sydney's north, on Tuesday morning. And they will keep coming for nine mornings in a row. Simbang Gabi Masses are held daily from December 16–24 in anticipation of Christmas.

Fr Dado Haber told SBS News: "Wherever the Filipinos are they continue the tradition, so obviously here in Australia they've imported the tradition."

"Here at the church they have it at 5.30am, which is a little bit late compared to the Philippines, where they have it at 4am. But it's a beautiful time, a quiet time to pray and to prepare ourselves in preparation for Christmas."

Simbang Gabi originated in the 17th century. It was introduced by the Spanish during their near-400 year rule of the Philippines. Masses were originally held at dawn so farmers could attend, and eat, before heading to work in the fields.

The Chatswood gathering was organised by the Filipino Chaplaincy of Chatswood Parish (FCCP) and provided a chance for the community to continue their traditions together.

"It's very important for us because tradition reinforces our faith and freedom, because we can practise it here as well," FCCP co-ordinator Ditas Naguit said.

"Filipinos are rich in tradition and rich in customs. An awareness of what we do helps us assimilate with the rest, and understand that they also have customs and traditions."

The Philippines is the third-largest Catholic country in the world. And with nearly 250,000 Filipinos in Australia, it's no surprise Simbang Gabi has travelled with the community.

"I feel proud, in a way, that we are the ones leading this practice and this tradition," Fr Haber said.

Like any Filipino celebration, the Masses involve plenty of food. Traditional Filipino cuisine and hot drinks are ready outside for when the churchgoers emerge into the sunlight.

FULL STORY

Christmas comes early for Filipinos at Sydney Simbang Gabi (SBS News)

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