Simbang Gabi has begun in the Philippines. This Catholic celebration kicks off Jesus’ Birthday Party in the archipelago. But don’t expect cake and ice cream for this celebration. However, food stalls are located right outside the church offering such popular Filipino favorites such as puto bumbong (sticky rice pastry), bibingka (rice cake) and salabat (ginger tea) or tsokolate (hot chocolate.)
Simbang Gabi is a Filipino Christmas tradition. It is a series of nine dawn masses. The mass starts as early as 4:00 a.m. It begins on December 16 and ends on the midnight of the 24th of December, which is the midnight mass. You better come early if you want a seat at the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. We’ve attended a few of these and the pews are always packed.
Father Lozada over at St. Michael the Archangel in San Miguel, Jordan, Guimaras, used to shoot off fireworks as early as 3:30 am. Father wanted to wake up the local parishioners so they could attend the Simbang Gabi masses. I have to hand it to Father. The fireworks would always wake me up though we were located several kilometers from the church.
Father has since been relocated to a new parish in Guimaras.
Simbang Gabi Kicks Off Jesus’ Birthday Party
Simbang Gabi was introduced by the Spanish friars to allow the farmers to hear mass before going to the fields early in the morning. Simbang Gabi is also known by its popular Spanish name as the Misa de Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster.”
“Mass of the Rooster.” An appropriate name for a church service in the Philippines. If your neighbor’s barking dogs or late night karaoke parties don’t wake you up, raucous roosters certainly will.
Simbang Gabi is the spiritual preparation for Christmas, in commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The celebration is also seen as a way of requesting blessings from the Lord, as most people believe that if one completes the whole series of nine dawn masses, wishes will be granted.
Slackers Didn’t Make it to Mass
We didn’t make it to the first mass thus our wishes will evidently not be granted. We’ll have to rely on our nightly prayers.
Its not that we don’t get up early enough. I’m awake between 3 and 4 am every morning. My asawa “sleeps in” until 5:00 am because she actually puts in a hard day’s work every day.
Ok, maybe we shouldn’t have stayed out until 10:15 last night. We were hanging out with our expat friends over at the “Old Shervin.” Some of the crowd was going to leave at 9, but Kenny was over at the capital dressed up as Santa Claus. Our wives walked over to check out Santa and the Dog Show that was also going on.
Santa Claus, a dog show and Simbang Gabi eve. Only in the Philippines
Night Masses Becoming Popular
Filipinos communities have made some changes in the way that this event is celebrated. Some urban parishes now celebrate Misa de Gallo around 8-9 in the evening in order to accommodate the needs of the members of the community who have different work schedules.
Simbang Gabi is also recognized by Catholic Filipino communities who are living elsewhere in the world. We celebrated a few if these evening masses when we lived in the States. The Philippines has the longest Christmas season of any country in the world and starts September 1 every year.
Filipinos take Christmas very seriously. And so do we (even if we do miss a mass or two.)