You can’t have a Filipino Christmas without attending, or at least thinking about attending, Simbang Gabi. It’s one of the oldest traditions in the Philippines. During these hallowed days, Catholic churches all over the country welcome their flock during the hours before sunrise.
Simbang Gabi, also called ‘Nine Mornings’, is a novena to the Blessed mother that begins on the 16th of December and concludes on Christmas Eve with the ‘Misa de Gallo’.
Where Simbang Gabi Was Born
It’s a tradition that came all the way from Mexico. It started in 1587, when Christmas mass was first held outdoors because of the large crowd that arrived for the evening mass. During these times, the mass began with the ringing of church bells. In other places, usually in rural areas, a brass band begins to play Christmas songs an hour before the mass starts. There have been stories of priests knocking on the doors of their congregation to remind them to attend the Misa de Gallo.
Simbang Gabi Now
Time has not faded the influence of Simbang Gabi on the faithful. New traditions have been added to it, like the hanging of bright lights to guide people to the church. Christmas songs are sung like choirs of angels announcing the celebration of the birth of Christ. Houses are adorned with colorful parols. After the Misa de Gallo, families around the nation celebrate Noche Buena by dining on traditional Christmas food like bibingka, queso de bola, or drinking a cup of hot chocolate.
Attending Simbang Gabi does not only strengthen your ties with the Lord, it also builds your relationship with family members and other relations who attend the masses with you. This is a holy time where we strongly feel the Lord’s presence in preparation for the celebration of his birth. Whether you complete the nine days or not, what’s important is the good thoughts and acts you do in His name.