Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Novena for Christ-Mass: Prelude

In a nation where eighty percent of the population is Catholic, Christmas starts early. It has to; you can't have a feast like Christmas without being preceded by a novena. That's when you get up to attend Mass just before dawn for nine days before the big day. In the Philippines, “Simbang Gabi” is its name. It is also known as “Misa de Gallo” which is Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass.”

The popular decoration for Christmas in the Philippines is the “parol” (pronounced “pah-roll” with a rolling "r", from the Spanish word for lantern, "farol"). This star-shaped motif is a blend of the Chinese lantern and the Mexican piƱata. It is lit from within; traditionally with candlelights mounted inside, but in the last century with electric lights. They are typically two to three feet wide, but if you go to the Fiesta at San Fernando, Pampanga (north of Metro Manila), there is a huge parade to celebrate the start -- no, not of Christmas, but of the novena.

Traditional parols are made with bamboo sticks and rice paper. If you go to “” you can learn to make one, or even order a kit. (Better yet, if you can't wait for delivery, simply read the instructions and find what you need at an arts and crafts store.) Here at Chez Alexandre, we hung a very colorful parol on the porch last night (see photo above, and video below), one that Sal brought back from the Philippines a month ago. Obviously it is of the modern variety, with elaborate flashing lights, and made with wire and a type of seashell known as capiz. The rest of the decorations will follow, but we had to start out on the right foot (or in the right light, whatever).

We would also note that in past years, we have followed the “O Antiphons” the seven chants which introduce the Vesperal Canticle -- the “Magnificat” -- in the Divine Office. Most people hear paraphrases of them all at once in the hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel," but they are meant to be sung one a day, ending with the day before the that of the Vigil. Here at mwbh we have found for this year, a most comprehensive aid to daily devotion, just five minutes of viewing during your lunch hour or other quiet time, to contemplate the coming of the God-made-man. The video clips for this series are provided by the YouTube channel of francisxcc entitled “The Splendor of Truth.”

They will be set up to publish at six in the morning, eastern USA time, starting tomorrow. Stay tuned ...

[NOTA BENE: As mentioned in the first video, a "barangay" is a municipality within a city; rendered as "barrio" in Spanish, as "berg" in German" and as "borough" in English. New York City, for example, is divided into five boroughs -- Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.]

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