Tomorrow Friday, December 16, 2011 will be the start of another Filipino tradition and marks the beginning of the yearly observance of the Misa de Gallo or also known as Simbang Gabi. Do you smell that…Christmas is just around the corners guys! Ahh, I’m so excited about it, my favorite holidays of the year. “Misa de Gallo” is the Spanish phrase for Midnight Mass. The phrase literally means “Roosters Mass”. These nine dawn Masses, the church bells start ringing as early as four o’clock in the morning. The masses end on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, with the “Misa de Gallo” (rooster’s mass) at midnight. We Filipinos are proud to proclaim our Christmas celebration to be the longest and merriest in the world. Going to mass this early for nine consecutive days is meant to show the churchgoer’s devotion to his faith and to heighten anticipation for the Nativity of the Lord. “Simbang Gabi is a tradition that started in the Philippines when we were under Spain (1521-1898).
It’s been already stamped to us since our forefathers and passes to our next generation. The change of times does not break the preservation of celebrating Simbang Gabi. A traditional Filipino belief, however, is that those who complete the novena will have a special wish or favor granted by God.
The votive masses are held not only in the Philippines but in other countries where there are Filipino communities. But whether the masses are celebrated early in the morning or at night, whether in the Philippines or elsewhere in the world, the reason for celebrating remains the same – we prepare for the Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.
After the mass, there is another old custom: the partaking of native delicacies sold in stalls outside the church like rice cakes (bibingka), puto bungbong, and suman taken with ginger tea (salabat), coffee or hot chocolate. But we should not overlook the meaning of Simbang Gabi to us. It is not just the custom that is distinguished because we need to do so.
It is important not only it supports relationships among family members but also because it is the stage where our devotion is strengthened. This is the phase where we generally feel the presence of our God because it is the spiritual preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t complete the novena, what really important is what is deep inside our heart.