In the Philippines, one tradition that clearly marks or symbolizes Christmas is the ‘Simbang Gabi’.
The literal translation of Simbang Gabi is “Night Mass”.
Catholic Filipinos attend mass for nine straight days. These masses are held at the break of dawn, with some service as early as 4 AM.
This Paskong Pinoy tradition started when the Philippines was under Spanish colonial rule. At its start, the masses were celebrated at night, hence it’s named ‘Simbang Gabi’. Later on the churches adjusted the service schedule to early dawn, this is to accommodate the countless natives who needs to sleep early and wake up early to tend to the farms.
Simbang Gabi Starts in the Philippines
Simbang Gabi starts on December 16 and ends in December 24 of every year. This is the time when churches all over the Philippines are jam-pack with the crowd even extending outside so early in the morning.
Families, couples, friends, whole communities come together to hear mass, pray for their intentions, ask for blessings especially in the yuletide season.
The last day of Simbang Gabi falls on Christmas Eve, the mass is now called the “Misa de Gallo”.
Majority of our countrymen attend the pre-dawn mass service because of their devotion and faith. Although there are some Pinoys who attend Simbang Gabi because of the common belief that if one completes the 9 days without any absences, then one’s prayers and intentions will be answered.
For those who will not be able to complete the 9 days of Simbang Gabi, it’s okay. For one, you still get to hear mass, which in itself bring blessings.
Plus, you are building memories with loved ones who attend the masses with you.
Lastly, there is always the Christmas kakanins on sale outside the churches to look forward too.
Paskong Pinoy Kakanins!
Another aspect that people look forward to during Simbang Gabi is the beautiful chaos after the mass ended when everyone have spilled-out into the courtyard and into the streets.
What will usually greet churchgoers are vendors who are waiting with their kakanin bestsellers from puto bumbong, bibingka, puto at sikwate, biko, pitchi-pitchi, kutsinta, budin, even to ready to eat viands like pancit, menudo, bola-bola, and more!
Note that the typical set-up in small towns is that the church is located in the center of the poblacion, and a public market or merkado is nearby it.
Vendors will maximize the earning opportunity during this season, while for the buyers, it’s a chance to sample as many kakanins as the wallet and stomach allows.
The food spreads not too far from the churches is another aspect which makes Paskong Pinoy so special and dear to the hearts of Filipinos, even the Pinoys who are now residing abroad.
Memories of Simbang Gabi and the food staples of Christmas brings you back home even if one is so, so far away.
Do you plan to complete the Simbang Gabi this year?
Simbang Gabi 2020 schedule will start December 16 (Wednesday) at dawn and ends on the evening mass on December 24 (Thursday).