Simbang Gabi; A Cherished Pinoy Tradition

11:00 AM

Being a Christian, we don't have this kind of tradition they called Simbang Gabi which translates to Night Mass, held from December 16 to December 24 and is usually done as early as 4 or 5 o' clock in the morning. On the last day of the Simbang Gabi, which is Christmas Eve, it is called Misa de Gallo. I have this big respect to all catholic who are religiously devoted attending the straight nine nights.


There are lot of articles and books tracing the roots of simbang Gabi but according to wikipedia the Simbang Gabi originated in the early days of Spanish rule as a practical compromise for farmers who started their day before sunrise to avoid the heat in the fields. Priests began to say Mass in the early mornings instead of the evening novenas more common in the rest of the Hispanic world. This cherished Christmas custom eventually became a distinct feature of Philippine culture and is a symbol of sharing.

During the old times, the pre-dawn mass was announced by the ringing of the church bells but I dont have idea what are the new pre-activity they do before the mass start. Simbang Gabi is said to be one of the oldest and most popular traditions in the Philippines, but apart from being a tradition being celebrated by the catholic people, it is also a tradition that they need to do so; this is the time where they mostly feel the presence of the Lord because it is the spiritual preparation for Christmas.

But people has this hanging questions in mind asking what really Simbang Gabi is. Here's an article from the Editorial of Manila Bulletin, Online Edition; SimbangGabi.net telling us what Simbang Gabi is:


STARTING after midnight tonight (15 December), church bells will be ringing very early in the morning until Christmas Day. Today marks the beginning of the Christmas novena, or Simbang Gabi, in Tagalog.  For Filipino Catholics the nine-day celebration before Christmas is a tradition with deep roots in the country's religious culture. Literally, simbang gabi means ``night worship.'' The name comes from the Catholic custom of gathering for the celebration of the Eucharist in the pre-dawn hours on each of the nine days before Christmas. Hence, this celebration is also known by its popular Spanish name as the misa de gallo, or ``mass of the rooster.'' Catholic churches throughout the country will be ringing their bells around 3:00 or 3:30 in the morning long before the roosters crow.

The origins of this Filipino custom are obscure. Perhaps the tradition came from Mexico, like many Catholic practices and devotions found in the Philippines. One old Spanish name for this pre-Christmas series of daily masses is Misa de Aguinaldo. The phrase offers some insight into the meaning of simbang gabi. In Spanish aguinaldo means a gift. So Misa de Aguinaldo suggests a gift for the Child Jesus. Whatever its title, this pre-Christmas observance is surely a sacrifice of love for it requires dedication and discipline to get out of bed so early while yet fulfilling all one's daily duties.

Over the generations, local Filipino faith communities have creatively adapted simbang gabi. While only candles and lanterns are used in rural areas, as in centuries past, most churches today have electric lights, lanterns, and sound systems in keeping with the economic means of the congregation. So amplifiers now blare the Christmas music and the readings from the World of God and the Eucharistic prayers. Over adaptations are deeper. For example, many urban parishes now celebrate simbang gabi around 8 or 9 in the evening, not just in the morning, in order to accommodate the needs of people on a great variety of work schedules. The custom is also kept among Filipinos living elsewhere in the world. No matter how or when this celebration takes place, the annual simbang gabi provides a strong indication of the depth of Catholicism in the hearts of Filipinos.

For those not taking in this celebration, simbang gabi may appear to be too much noise too early in the morning. But a modicum of reflection easily allows everyone to gain insight into the deeper meaning of this celebration. Simbang gabi expresses the faith of Filipinos who hold the same core belief as all Christians, namely, that God is present in human history, even in the simple joys and anxieties of life's humblest activities. Filipino Catholics who sincerely live their belief in the incarnation merit the respect and admiration of the whole nation.

So, let the bells of the Misa de Gallo break the pre-dawn silence of the whole land. The bells offer a message of hope in God and of hope for peace on earth.


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