I love Christmas that sometimes in the middle of the year I hit on Youtube and watched Pinoy Christmas videos and carols, those moments never fail to embrace me with warmth as I listen to the songs and watch very Filipino Christmas sceneries. I am not sure when I will ever get tired of Christmas, probably never. And I know I am not alone with my feelings. Lots of Filipinos equally love the Christmas season, maybe even you? 😉
I have friends who have grown up and turn cynic over this celebration; I can’t connect with that – losing that childlike wonder over Christmas. Christmas for me continues to be something special and something that I genuinely look forward to. I can still ‘feel’ the Christmas spirit and I am very happy about it.
Ikaw? What are your thoughts and feelings about Christmas? Can you still hear and feel ‘hope’ being carried by the silent wind that caresses your cheek every December morn?
What does Christmas means to you now?
Okay, I got sidetracked lol. This blog post is about the Filipino unique Christmas tradition of Simbang Gabi so I am steering it back to my supposed topic hehehe. Aside from the belen, parol, caroling, singing Pasko Na Naman Muli at the top of your lungs, tasting Christmas treats like puto bumbong, knocking on the doors of your ninong and ninang, exchanging gifts by way of Monita Monito et al, another Christmas celebration and tradition that is very special to Filipinos is the Simbang Gabi. Ang Paskong Pinoy is not complete without attending at least one of these dawn masses.
The Simbang Gabi: Filipino Christmas Tradition
Simbang Gabi aka Dawn Mass aka Rooster Mass aka Misa de Gallo, is a very Pinoy way of welcoming in “officially” the Christmas season. It is a tradition being religiously followed by many Filipino wherein for 9 straight days at the break of dawn, Pinoys will troop to their own parishes to hear Simbang Gabi, a special 9 day novena to celebrate this very special time.
This special mass will start on December 16 and then the last mass will be heard just before the clock strike midnight on December 24. December 16 to December 23 is typically known as Simbang Gabi – and the last night December 24 is especially called Misa De Gallo, or “midnight mass“, the last day of this Christmas novena vigil and mass.
Although the literal translation and meaning of Simbang Gabi is “Night Worship” or “Night Mass”, this tradition has evolved to become a mass celebrated at dawn.
During the Spanish occupation when Christianity and the Christmas celebration was introduced by the Spaniards to the Filipinos, the Simbang Gabi started as a night mass but because most of the common folks are farmers, fishermen etc and can’t attend the night mass because they have to wake up real early the following day to attend to their farms and their duties, the parishes then moved the 9 day Simbang Gabi novena to the break of dawn or at that time when rooster crows and heralds in a new day.
Today, the mass schedule for Simbang Gabi is at 5 am, I am not 100% sure if this time schedule for the mass is the same across the country.
Top Reasons Why Pinoy Attend Simbang Gabi Masses
Some of the top reasons why Pinoy love to attend Simbang Gabi and aspires to complete the 9 days are the following:
- Old folks have handed down the belief that if you complete the whole 9 day novena mass for Simbang Gabi, at the 9th mass you can make a special wish and that wish will come true. Many believe this and many hold on to this promise of reward.
2. It’s one of those times when parents allow their kids to go out with their barkada or friends without much question, no wonder during Simbang Gabi masses you can see lots and lots of barkadahan attending mass.
3. The month of December brings those chilly winds especially at the break of dawn; this is something that we Pinoys truly enjoy in light of months and months of hot, humid weather. And because there are not much public transpo during the early hours, people actually enjoy walking to the church so they can revel in the cold December wind.
4. Another reason I guess why many Pinoy look forward to masses during this season is that our churches look more awesome adorned with Christmas lights and decors! You can search online for pictures of Philippine churches readying for Simbang Gabi and you’d be awestruck to see the churches’ façade lighted up and looks so Christmassy 🙂
5. The very Pinoy Christmas native delicacies like puto bumbong, bibingka, suman at tsokolate and more! After hearing mass, people troop to the vendors near the church or in the merkado or public market to buy these native delicacies. This array of yummy pinoy foods and delicacies is one of the very telling signals that the Christmas season has indeed arrived! There are also imported favorites like castanas, apples and other fruits.
By the way, here in Cebu puto bumbong is not popular the way it is in Manila and Luzon, what we do have here are bibingka, budbod, tagaktak, masareal and more =)
6. But what I love most about Simbang Gabi is that there is usually a communal singing of Christmas carols at the end of the mass. And people heartily take part in the singing. You can really feel good vibes and good hopeful spirit going around the smiling people. 😉
And what can I say but that Simbang Gabi truly makes Christmas more meaningful to many Filipinos. It is a tradition that I hope will never be forgotten by the future generations.
This novena is foremost a sacrifice, it also tells of dedication, discipline, passion and hope. It’s hard to complete the 9 days I tell you when you need to wake up real early so you don’t miss the mass, and then you go about your day at work or at school a bit groggy from lack of full rest/sleep. Yet, you forge ahead and aim to follow through this very Pinoy Christmas tradition because it is your faith that leads you to the church’ door on cold December mornings. Yep, Faith and the Hope that the coming years will bring more blessings to you and the family.
Have a wonderful Christmas celebration everyone! Godbless and Maligayang Pasko!
Malipayong Pasko sa Tanan!