Simbang Gabi or early morning mass enjoins all Catholic Filipinos to come and celebrate the novena mass at the break of dawn for 9 consecutive days to Christmas Day or Pasko. From December 16 to Dec 24 the parish churches will be deck with beautiful lights and parol (Filipino traditional christmas lantern) welcoming all families, friends, and everyone who wants to celebrate the birth of Christ.
The 9th and last day of the novena is called Misa de Gallo or Midnight Mass and instead of holding the mass at dawn, the mass usually happens around 10:00pm of December 24 to give ample time to the church goers to go back to their homes and be with their families at the strike of midnight or December 25 and to share in the feast of the Noche Buena, which is another Christmas tradition of Pinoys.
At the end of each mass everyone joins in the robust singing of a Filipino festive Christmas song like Pasko Na Namang Muli, in other parts of the country ‘Kasadya Ning Takna-a’ is the favorite communal song to end the mass.
If it is your first time to attend a Simbang Gabi, you would probably be touched by the warmth, camaraderie and fellowship of everyone as they sing along to the christmas song with smiles in their eyes.
A lot of Filipinos especially the youth are desirous of completing the whole 9 days of the novena because old folks says and believes that if you complete the Simbang Gabi a wish you made on the first day of the novena will come true, it is no wonder then that mass attendees double or triple up during this special period compared to the regular Sunday mass celebrations.
Kids and teenagers also love this tradition as they can go to mass with their barkada (special group of friends) without their parents saying ‘no’ to them. Most churchgoers walk to the church because there is little public transport available at dawn but people usually don’t mind walking to the church since it is windy and cold on early December morning in the Philippines. So you can see group of teenagers chatting, laughing and have a merry time on their way to Simbang Gabi.
The original schedule for the Simbang Gabi is night time, as the literal English translation of ‘simbang gabi’ is ‘night mass’ but during the Spanish colonial period a lot of farmers were not able to attend the mass because they have to wake up real early the following day to work on their farms. Adjustment was then made in consideration of these farmers and the time for Simbang Gabi was moved to the break of dawn which is still continued to this day.
If you are a Filipino but who grew up in foreign lands or you are a foreign visitor to the Philippines during this time, try to attend even one Simbang Gabi to see the richness of our culture and the fellowship of Filipinos.
Now, if you are Filipino, you may want to attend and complete the Simbang Gabi this year, who knows, your heart’s desire might finally come true with the coming of the New Year.
Merry Christmas! This is another Philippine Christmas Tradition that Filipinos all over the world are proud of.