• Parishioners from St. Maximillian Kolbe gather with the Mexican community to celebrate the tradition of Las Posadas in this Dec. 2010 file photo taken at St. Gregory Church in Marion.

Local Catholics celebrate cultural Advent, Christmas traditions

Catholic Courier    |    11.25.2015
Category: Advent

Although they traveled far from their homelands, immigrants who have settled in this area brought with them their nations' cultural and religious traditions for Advent and Christmas. Here are a few celebrations with international roots.

Polish Wigilia

Polish parishioners in the diocese may kick off their Christmas celebrations with Wigilia, the Christmas Eve dinner that ends a day of fasting and abstinence.

The Wigilia meal features a meatless menu with an odd number of courses -- often 13 to symbolize Christ and the Twelve Apostles. Before feasting, the group will ceremoniously break and share an unblessed wafer called an oplatek, which translates to an offering or oblation.

Filipino Simbang Gabi

Father Edison Tayag, a native of the Philippines and pastor of St. Patrick Church in Victor, noted that Filipinos celebrate morning Masses for the nine days before Christmas (Dec. 16-24). Called the Mass of the Rooster, the liturgy is celebrated at 4 or 5 a.m.

Another Filipino tradition is the placement of parol, or Christmas lanterns, in doors and window to represent the star of Bethlehem, Father Tayag said.

On Christmas Eve, families attend midnight Mass and then eat a special dinner, typically featuring roasted pig, rice noodles and stews, the priest noted for a 2012 Catholic Courier article.

Las Posadas

One of the major Advent celebrations for local Latinos is the Dec. 12 feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to St. Juan Diego on that day in 1531 in Mexico. Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which also is the feast day of several other Marian apparitions, is another important celebration for Hispanic families.

Some area Latinos also celebrate a custom commonly practiced in Mexico -- Las Posadas-- a nine-day celebration of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before the birth of Jesus. Participants in Las Posadas typically travel from house to house singing carols as well as a traditional Las Posadas song in which they plead for shelter. The singers outside a home are answered by those inside, who tell the group that they are full and cannot let them in. The homes that are to be visited are usually warned ahead of time so the residents can prepare food and a party for the participants.

Contains reporting by Amy Kotlarz.


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