This Filipino holiday tradition has made its way stateside. And people are loving it.
True
General Mills

Have you ever gone to Christmas Mass at 4:30 in the morning? For nine days straight?

I did once.

You wake up at dusk, walk to church, run into people you don't see a lot, sing holiday songs half-awake, and when Mass is over, you usually eat traditional street food.


It's all part of a holiday tradition in the Philippines called "Simbang Gabi" or "Night Mass."

I grew up in the Philippines, and let me tell you, Simbang Gabi is an institution there. Plus, the Christmas season starts the moment we enter the "ber" months (yes, Christmas songs start playing in September), so it's only fitting that Christmas Mass should last over a week.

In the Philippines, there's no shortage of decorations come Christmas time. Image by Patpat Nava/Wikimedia Commons.

When I did it that one time, I wasn't a huge fan. (Granted, I was an 11-year-old kid who preferred playing PlayStation to going to school, so really I didn't like anything non-PlayStation-related.) In fact, I never did the full nine days again. I'd go to one, maybe two. Some years I didn't go at all.

But as I got older — and especially since I moved to the U.S. — I started to miss it over the holidays. I realized just how special those moments were and how they brought me closer to the people I love.

Luckily, Simbang Gabi has made its way around the world, allowing many Filipinos abroad to feel closer to home.

A Simbang Gabi celebration at the Los Angeles Cathedral. Image (cropped) via Beyond Forgetting/Flickr.

Aileen Yosuico, coordinator of Simbang Gabi at St. Jane Frances de Chantal in North Hollywood, remembers very well how it all started at her particular parish — with a group of parishioners who just wanted to continue a tradition.

"It started out as just one evening Mass instead of the early morning Mass, held between the 15th and 23rd of December," writes Yosuico in an email. "This year, instead of just one Simbang Gabi Mass, we will start observing the 9-day Christmas Novena from Dec. 16-23rd at 5:30am."

Traditionally, a Simbang Gabi Mass can start anywhere between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. No, that's not a normal hour for most people to go to Mass. But remember, this isn't a normal Mass.

The choir at St. Jane Frances de Chantal dressed in traditional Filipino garb. Image via Jonathan Soriano, used with permission.

"The Mass starts with a procession of lanterns, children carrying poinsettia flowers and the singing of traditional Filipino Christmas carols," adds Yosuico. "Everyone in attendance is encouraged to wear the traditional barong or Filipiniana garb. After the mass, a reception of traditional Filipino food follows at the gym and is accompanied by a program of song and dance numbers, raffles and games."

The choir getting ready for Simbang Gabi. Image via Jonathan Soriano, used with permission.

Even better, other cultures have caught on to the celebration. And of course, being Filipino, we welcome them with open arms.

Today, over two dozen churches in the area surrounding St. Jane's have started their own Simbang Gabi as well, opening the celebration to all communities looking to add something special to their Christmas spirit.

Dr. Maria Ruby Minosa, one of the Simbang Gabi committee members at St. Jane's, notes in a separate email, "We are a loving people and welcome with wide arms all colors of humanity. The way we celebrate is always like a party."

And really, who doesn't love a good party?

It's all about bringing people together. Image via Jonathan Soriano, used with permission.

"I think when the other cultures see how happy and loving we become during our Christmas celebration, they want to experience it as well," writes Minosa.

At the end of the day, that's what Simbang Gabi is all about — community, celebration, and becoming closer with one another.

I didn't realize it when I was younger, obviously, but everything Simbang Gabi stands for is a big part of who I am as a person. It also symbolizes what makes holiday traditions in general so special for millions around the world. After all, what better time to come together and open your hearts to the people around you?

And while you're at it, why not make it a party?

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.