Simbang Gabi, an ancient but little-known way of preparing for the coming of the Child Jesus, will be  celebrated at parishes throughout the Diocese of Richmond, beginning with Mass at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9, at the Church of the Redeemer, 8275 Meadowbridge Road, Mechanicsville. Fr. Rene Castillo will be the principal celebrant and homilist. Immediately following there will be a reception.

Simbang Gabi (“Mass at Dawn”) is one of the longest — over 600 years — and most important religious celebrations in the Philippines. It was originally a series of “Masses at Dawn” for nine consecutive days (a novena) before Christmas Day. Its liturgical significance emanates from Advent being the time of spiritual preparation to worthily welcome and receive the Child Jesus.

The first day of the novena begins Friday, Dec. 15. In the Diocese of Richmond, 22 parishes will celebrate Simbang Gabi between Dec. 15 and Dec. 23. The complete list of locations, dates and times for Masses is available under the Asian Ministry listing at www.richmonddiocese.org.

Information about the celebration, which is marking its ninth anniversary in the diocese, is also available by contacting Pam Harris, director, Office of Asian Ministry, at (804) 622-5262 or asianministry@richmonddiocese.org.