December 5, 2011, 6:55 pm

For Filipinos, an Abrupt Directive Alters a Christmas Ritual

New York Times
City Room

Those who complain that the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier each year might find solace in hearing how Filipinos traditionally celebrate the season — theirs can stretch from as early as September to late January.

“We have the longest Christmas season, and we go all-out,” said Aurora Aquino, a Filipino-born fashion designer. “Christmas is a very big deal for Filipinos.”

Ms. Aquino was holding an umbrella decorated into a highly adorned canopy, as were a few other women marching with dozens of Filipino immigrants through the streets of Midtown to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday night.

The procession was something of a kickoff to Simbang Gabi, a nine-day Roman Catholic ritual observed before Christmas in the Philippines. Masses during Simbang Gabi can begin as early as 4 a.m., a tradition that is said to date back centuries, to the time when Filipino farmers under Spanish rule had to rise early to find time to worship before toiling in the fields. This year, the nine days of Masses begins Wednesday.

Read the article at was there to cover the event. Here are some of our photos. More at

Procession Enters St. Patrick's

Our Lady of Fatima too tall for the front door

Procession tries to enter front door at St. Patrick's

Tourist snaps a picture of Our Lady of Fatima

The procession in front of St. Patrick's on Fifth Avenue

Ladies with parasols in the procession

The procession crosses Park Avenue

The procession crosses Park Avenue

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