The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced that this will be the first time that the Simbang Gabi will be held in three churches, found in three different districts of the capital city, Kuwait.
In an article posted Sunday on its news site, the CBCP said the Masses will be held at the Holy Family Cathedral in Safat, Our Lady of Arabia in Ahmadi and the St. Therese Parish in Salmiya.
Fr. Ben Barrameda Jr., the only Filipino priest in the Apostolic Vicariate of Kuwait, said the tradition of holding early morning masses began in Kuwait some 10 years ago, when it was brought to that smallest of Middle Eastern countries by Filipino workers, who now number about 200,000.
Barrameda said this year’s theme is “Matatagpuan tayo ng Diyos…sa pamamagitan ni Kristo Hesus (God will meet us… through Christ).”
Filipino custom dictates that Christmas Day is ushered in by the nine-day dawn Masses that start on December 16. In Kuwait, masses began at 9:30 p.m. starting December 15 at the Our Lady of Arabia and the St. Therese churches by Fr. Fred Micua and two other Filipino priests at St. Therese in Salmiya, a thickly populated residential district.
Masses at the Holy Family Cathedral parish and Our Lady of Arabia will begin at 5 a.m. instead of the traditional 5:30 a.m. upon the request of Filipino workers who report to work very early in the morning.
Going to mass this early for nine consecutive days is meant to show devotion and faith in God, even as it heightens the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. Filipinos believe that God will grant devotees their special wishes if they complete the masses.
Outside, street vendors offer native delicacies like bibingka (native pan), puto bumbong (rice cake), salabat(ginger ale) and tsokolate (native chocolate drink), as part of the Filipino tradition.