Simbang Gabi is a Filipino Christmas tradition that was introduced by Spanish friars to allow farmers to hear Mass before going to the fields early in the morning. Simbang Gabi is also popularly known in Spanish as Misa de Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster.”
It begins on Dec. 16 and ends on the midnight of Dec. 24. It consists of a series of nine dawn Masses. The mass starts as early as 3 in the morning and as late as 7 in the evening. Recently, according to Evelyn Macairan, “Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi is gaining popularity in other countries, to the point that Filipino priests are being requested to celebrate the mass abroad during the Christmas season.”
Simbang Gabi is not just your traditional Christmas celebration. It is actually a spiritual preparation for Christmas, in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ. Gloria Cabañes, is a widow who has lived her entire 70 years of life as a Catholic. She elucidates the meaning of devotion as she continues to pay respect to the Catholic church even in her old age.
When asked why she kept the faith, she said that she had done so simply because that is the religion she was born into, and that it will be the same religion she will gladly rest her life with. Placing traditional beliefs aside, her way of devotion is marked within her veins as she makes her way into the church one or two hours before the service even starts.
As most people believed, this celebration is also seen as a way of requesting blessings from God. The belief is passed down that if one completes the series of nine masses, then wishes will be granted – a belief that has kept everyone going.
For many years, parishes made minor changes to the usual schedule to accommodate the needs of the community since some people had different work schedules. Late night masses can be adjusted until eight in the evening for those members of the community that come home at seven.