‘Simbang Gabi’ makes the season official
The carols dominating the airwaves, the Christmas lights on the sidewalks, the countdown every after the primetime news program – yes, Christmas is coming, maybe in two months or 49 days.
Well, that is just how it goes in the Philippines, the country to have the longest Christmas celebration.
Then how do we know that really, officially, and actually… Christmas is just around the corner? When “Simbang Gabi” starts, of course!
“Simbang Gabi” is a nine-day series of dawn Masses that starts every December 16 until 24. Although not an obligation, attending Mass as early as four or five in the morning has been a tradition among the Filipinos.
Translated as “Misa de Gallo” in Spanish, it is a custom introduced by the Spaniards in the Philippines.
In earlier years, for practicality, the priests preside Mass during the dawn for farmers who had to wake up early and to start work even before the sun rises. As time went by, it became a devotion of faith – heightening the anticipation of the nativity.
No matter how hard it is to part ways with the bed and wake up at dawn so as to be able to attend the Mass, Filipinos surprisingly manage to do so.
Churches are filled with devotees: some, to relay their intentions to God; some, to show their sacrifices.
Joining in this tradition does not hurt. In fact, it has something in it that will really make the spirit of Christmas alive. Maybe it is in the homily of the priest, or the “puto-bumbong” and “bibingka” being sold outside the church; or maybe it is in the smiles of the people that reflect a certain kind of glow.
Anyway, whatever we do, no matter how little or how much happiness it brings, we must always remember that we are doing it for Him.