“Simbang Gabi” is a Filipino Christmas tradition, It is a series of nine dawn masses which start as early as 4 o’ clock in the morning. In olden days, church bells start ringing as early as three o’ clock waking people up so they can get ready.
Simbang Gabi begins on December 16 and ends midnight of the 24th of December, which is the midnight mass. On the last day of the Simbang Gabi, which is Christmas Eve, it is called Misa de Gallo, or “Rooster’s Mass”.
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. Friars began to say Mass in the early mornings instead of the evening novenas common in the rest of the Hispanic world.
Today, the tradition of Simbang Gabi continues whether you live in the city or in the province, although it is celebrated in new ways. Most churches are decorated with colorful lights and beautiful parol lanterns to welcome parishioners.
The Nativity Scene or “Belen” is displayed in preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It shows the infant Jesus in a manger with Mother Mary and Saint Joseph. There are shepherds and farm animals. A complete scenario of the Belen includes the three wise men carrying their gifts to Infant Jesus and the star of Bethlehem that guided them in their journey.
After the mass, traditional delicacies awaits the church goers, there are food stalls right outside the church, popular favourites are bibingka, puto (rice cakes), and puto bungbong served with tea or tsokolate.