Metro Manila · Simbang Gabi / Misa de Gallo (December 16 to 24)
During the nine days before Christmas, Catholics in the Philippines attend Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo, a series of masses that take place late in the evening or before sunrise, between 3 and 5 am.
Simbang Gabi, which simply means night mass in Tagalog, is a religious as well as a social event for all ages. Many churches put extra monoblock chairs outside, because not all the attendants would fit inside. Lots of people keep flocking to the church even after the mass has long started and the attendees are a mixed group. This includes very old people who make sure not to miss a single Simbang Gabi, office workers on their way to work or home, young parents with little children, and teenage girls looking for their crushes in church.
After mass, many of the churchgoers rush straight to the food stalls outside. During Simbang Gabi, street food vendors traditionally sell bibingka and puto bumbong, hot and ready for consumers. The street outside the church is full with other vendors as well, selling anything and everything.
The Christmas practice of the early morning mass has its origins in Spanish colonial times, allowing farmers to attend mass before going to work in the fields. Each Catholic parish has a fixed schedule for Simbang Gabi. It is held every night between December 15/16 and December 24. If you want to attend it, just ask your nearest church for their Simbang Gabi schedule.
Simbang Gabi Definition And History
Simbang Gabi is a series of masses held in a span of nine days often described as a devotional Catholic tradition practiced during the holidays. But it’s not just the country’s Catholics that practice this tradition, the Aglipayans also hold night mass in anticipation of Christmas.
While Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo are often used interchangeably in the Philippines, historians say Misa de Gallo (Spanish for Rooster’s Mass) is technically the last day of the nine-day series of masses.
During Spanish times, parishioners would offer sacks of rice or produce to clergymen. These offerings would later be shared with all churchgoers after the mass. Today, however, food is no longer served by the church and churchgoers would just buy food from food stalls at the church’s premises. Offerings are still given but this often comes in the form of cash, flowers, or candles. In the provinces, parishioners still offer fruits to the altar.
Simbang Gabi Today
Simbang Gabi photos often showcase churches from allover the country filled with people attending the mass but in other areas, especially in Metro Manila, Simbang Gabi is also held in malls. They often hold these masses in the evening though instead of the traditional hours of 3 to 5 in the morning.
A Fulfilled Wish
Many Filipinos attribute the completion of the nine-day novena masses to the fulfillment of a wish.