Christmas in the Philippines: Simbang Gabi

If in some countries, the smell of chestnuts and the sparkly snowy roads are the signs of the Christmas season, the Philippines has far more traditional and distinct signs that make Christmas celebration here just one of a kind.

Just like simbang gabi (Rooster’s mass).

I already have explained in one of my previous posts the origin of the dawn mass. It is said that it is a novena of thanksgiving done in evening. But since the farmers can no longer attend the novena after a long day of work, folks decided to have it done in the morning, before the sun rises. And so it became a tradition for Filipinos to wake up as rarly as 3 in the morning starting December 16 to attend simbang gabi.

Why people attend simbang gabi?

Superstitious tradition has it that if you were able to complete the novena, any wish you have will be granted. When I was younger, my cousins and I would come to the mass together, and start  bragging about how we were able to attend simbang gabi for nine days. I had to admit that attending the mass has become the bonding time for us, and until now, with my nieces.

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Posing for #ootd of Simbang Gabi Day 1

Some of the younger ones, sadly take this as an opportunity to eacape with their girlfriends and boyfriends. The sacrifice they do for love – getting up earlier than usual, taking shower in a freezing temp (heaters are not common here in the Philippines) and putting up all their energies to come up with the ootd (outfit of the day) just to look attractive and adorable for their waiting partners.

The real meaning of simbang gabi.

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Just like what’s mentioned above, simbang gabi is a thanksgiving novena. It is also the preparation for the coming of Christ and of salvation. One of the priests in our parish have said in his homily, “Let this be your moment of faith. Attending this mass should not be because of tradulitional superstition.” When I spoke to him after the mass, he said, “I just don’t understand simmbang gabi. I think it’s purely tradition.” Understandably, he never witnessed this where he came from, because he is an Argentinian.

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Indeed, most people attending dawn masses do not have the right reasons for doing so. It must be traditional, but I believe that the more important part of this practice is the giving of thanks and the preparation for the birth of Christ. We should take advantage of this custom to get closer to God as we await for his joyful coming to bring about salvation.

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