VIENNA, Austria – Even though they live in Austria, Filipinos still preserve Philippine traditions during Christmas.
Filipino Catholics here are very glad that the Diocese of Vienna has opened churches where they can celebrate the traditional Simbang Gabi.
Filipino priests in the city are now celebrating Simbang Gabi in different churches in Vienna and in the neighboring provinces of Lower Austria and Upper Austria.
“Simbang Gabi is not just a tradition that is celebrated because we need to do so. It is a significant moment not only because it strengthens relationships among family members and the community but also because it is a time when our faith is intensified. This is the time when we mostly feel the presence of the Lord because it is the spiritual preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ,” said Filipino priest Fr. Ron Sandoval, in his homily.
Various Filipino organizations are sponsoring the Simbang Gabi from December 16 to 24. After the mass, they organized potluck dinners, where traditional Filipino food such as pansit and puto are served.
The Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy, likewise, arranged masses in different parishes to accommodate those who live in far-flung areas.
“Our Simbang Gabi is our expression of our hope for the coming of the Messiah,” said another priest from the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy.
Volet SB, one of the Simbang Gabi sponsors, said that Christmas should be a time for peace and to be in union with God.
“The main goal why our group sponsors Simbang Gabi regularly is primarily to evangelize and bring more Filipinos closer to the Catholic faith,” Volet SB said.
Boy Torres, who is part of the Ilonggo group, shared some of his wishes for the 9-day novena masses.
“Para sakin, kung ako mismo ang kukumpleto sa ilang araw ng pag-sisimbang gabi, ang tanging kahilingan ko lamang ay manatiling masaya at magkaroon kami ng mahabang pagsasamahan ng mga mahal ko sa buhay,” Torres said.
Simbang Gabi is one of the most popular Filipino traditions in the Philippines. The 9-day novena culminates with the Misa de Gallo at midnight on Christmas Eve.