For Roman Catholics, it has always been a practice to celebrate mass in the wee hours of dawn consecutively for nine days before Christmas. It is known as " Simbang Gabi". According to Wikipedia, it is a devotional nine-day series of Masses by Roman Catholics and Aglipayans in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in anticipation of Christmas. Simbang Gabi is composed of two Tagalog words namely simba and gabi. " Simba" means "mass" and "gabi" means "night" in Filipino. From those two words, you can simply picture out Filipinos celebrating mass at dawn which has the same darkness that of the night.
Simbang Gabi is usually held from December 16 to December 24. It may start from 3 to 5 o'clock in the morning usually held in every Roman Catholic church. The last day of the SimbangGabi, which is Christmas Eve, is called "Misa de Gallo", which literally means "Rooster's Mass". Wondering why it's called as Rooster's Mass? Usually we hear a rooster crow at dawn, mostly from the country side in most countries. But since Philippines is a very agricultural country, a rooster's crow is common at dawn. Thus, the name.
This goes back from the Spanish Era when Philippines was still under the Spanish colony in the early 1500's. The original tradition has novenas and singing before the mass begins. From this popular Nine Mornings, festivities emerged and many people participated; families and friends gather in church to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ. This is an annual event for Roman Catholics and is a cherished and practiced Christmas custom which eventually became a distinct feature of Philippine culture and a symbol of sharing.
There are hundreds and thousands of people who are willing to wake up early and attend the mass. It gives hope, happiness and strength to each and one of them.This is really a good occasion to show that the church is mainly the people of God.Even two little kids managed to wake up early morning to hear mass. They didn't mind the time as long as they can witness and experience the said event. They are so proud to be a part of it. There is a belief that if you complete the nine mornings, God will grany any wish you like.
Years ago when Spaniards came to the Philippines and colonized the country, they brought with them Christianity."Simbáng Gabi" has become a form of socialization for Filipinos.
After the mass, churchgoers are also in for a food trip. Buying and eating well-known local delicacies, such as bibingka, suman, puto bungbong, salabat and hot chocolate in the vicinity of the church are very popular among Filipinos.
Filipinos are also known to celebrate the longest Christmas season in the world from the month of September until early January. Filipinos working abroad would come home to celebrate Christmas and New Yearswith their families. "There is no place like home." as an OFW says. So try to visit the Philippines to experience this known tradition and be a part of it. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Written by Marilou Quijada and Jendy Caballera
Edited by Maureen Sarcon