Filipino representatives from various Mercer County parishes take part in a Simbang Gabi Mass last year in St. Ann Church, Lawrenceville. John Blaine photo

Filipino representatives from various Mercer County parishes take part in a Simbang Gabi Mass last year in St. Ann Church, Lawrenceville. John Blaine photo

In the Filipino Catholic tradition, the nine-day Novena of Masses known as Simbang Gabi spiritually prepares one for the celebration of Christmas, a tradition with deep roots in the country’s religious culture beginning after midnight Dec. 15 and running through Dec. 24.

Also known as “night worship,” the name comes from gathering for the celebration of the Eucharist in the pre-dawn hours on each of the nine days before Christmas. On the last day of the Simbang Gabi, which is Christmas Eve, the service is called Misa de Gallo, Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass.” Churches throughout the country will ring their bells anywhere between 3 and 5:30 a.m. This pre-Christmas observance calls dedication and discipline to rise early and still fulfill all of one’s daily duties.

The following Simbang Gabi Masses have been scheduled:

Burlington County
Dec. 2, 7 p.m.
• St. Charles Borromeo Church, 2500 Branch Pike, Cinnaminson, 609-829-3322

Mercer County

Dec. 15, 7 p.m.Incarnation-St. James Church, 1545 Pennington Road, Ewing, 609-882-2860

Dec. 16, 7 p.m.St. Raphael Church, 3500 South Broad St., Hamilton, 609-585-7049

Dec. 17, 7 p.m. St. Anthony of Padua Church, 251 Franklin St., Hightstown, 609-448-0141

Dec. 18, 7 p.m.St. David the King Church, 1 New Village Road, Princeton Junction, 609-275-7111

Dec. 19, 7 p.m.St. Gregory the Great Church, 4620 Nottingham Way, Hamilton Square, 609-587-4877

Dec. 21, 7 p.m. • St. Vincent De Paul Church, 555 Yardville-Allentown Road, Yardville, 609-585-6470 

Dec. 22, 7 p.m. • St. Paul Church, 214 Nassau St., Princeton, 609-924-1743

Dec. 23, 7 p.m. • St. Ann Church, 1253 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, 609-882-6491.

Monmouth County

In Monmouth County, the following parishes invites all to the nine-day Simbang Gabi Masses:

Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m., St. Joseph, 376 Maple Place, Keyport

Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m., St. Mary of the Assumption, 46 Richmond Ave., Deal

Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m., St. Clement, 172 Freneau Ave., Matawan

Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m., St. James, 94 Broad St., Red Bank

Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m., St. Catherine of Siena, 31 Asbury Rd., Farmingdale

Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., St. Benedict, 156 Bethany Rd., Holmdel

Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m., St. Michael, 800 Ocean Ave., West End

Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m., Holy Innocents, 3455 West Bangs Ave., Neptune

Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m., St. Dorothea, 240 Broad St., Eatontown

On the final night of Simbang Gabi, there will be a celebration in the reception hall of St. Dorothea Parish. Mass goers are asked to arrive to the church by 7 p.m. for recitation of the Rosary.

Ocean County
Nine Ocean County parishes have come together and planned to observe Simbang Gabi. Following is the list of parishes with information on times and dates of Masses.

Dec. 9, 7 p.m. St. Justin the Martyr, 975 Fischer Blvd., Toms River. Celebrant Father Mark Kreder, pastor.

Dec. 10, 7 p.m., St. Luke, 1674 Old Freehold Rd., Toms River. Celebrant Father Robert Grodnicki, pastor.

Dec. 11, 7 p.m., St. John, 619 Chestnut Ave., Lakehurst. Celebrant Father Nestor Chavenia, parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat.

Dec. 12, 7 p.m., St. Aloysius, 935 Bennetts Mills Rd., Jackson. Celebrant Father Sheldon Amasa, parochial vicar.

Dec. 13, 7 p.m., St. Joseph, 685 Hooper Ave., Toms River. Celebrant Father Cesar Anson, parochial vicar.

Dec. 14, 7 p.m., St. Barnabas, 33 Woodland Rd., Bayville. Celebrant Father Peter James R. Alindogan, pastor of St. Jerome Parish, West Long Branch, and St. Mary, Deal, and diocesan director of missions.

Dec. 15, 7 p.m., St. Monica, 679 W. Veterans Highway, Jackson. Celebrant Father Alex Enriquez, parish administrator.

Dec. 16, 6 p.m. St. Mary of the Pines Church, 100 Bishop’s Lane, Manahawkin. Celebrant is Bishop Bernadito C. Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Dec. 17, 4:30 p.m. St. Maximilian Kolbe, 130 St. Maximilian Kolbe Lane Toms River. Celebrant is Father Virgilio Tolentino. A Christmas party will follow.

For more information, contact Wilhelmina Abela-Bamba at 732-963-7371 or Marlene Legaspi at 732-239-1555.