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Simbáng Gabi (Misa de Gallo) 2024

A Filipino Christmas tradition in anticipation of Christmas

Dates: December 16–December 24

Simbáng Gabi (Misa de Gallo)
Simbáng Gabi in Mangatarem in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines
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Simbáng Gabi, which means Night Mass, is a series of Catholic Masses in the Philippines during the nine days leading to Christmas—from December 16th to December 24th. Christmas Eve is marked with a special service called Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass in Spanish). A great place to experience the tradition is the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church) in Manila. Other popular locations are Mangatarem, Lapu-Lapu City, Cagayan de Oro City.

Misa de Gallo is actually celebrated in all shrines, parishes, and main chapels throughout the Philippines. The Simbáng Gabi Masses occur at different times, often early in the morning from 3 to 5 am. People are lighting small oil lamps, some of them are shaped as stars after the Star of Bethlehem. After Christmas Mass, parishers eat special holiday treats, like Bibingka (rice cakes), puto bumbong (rice pastries with coconut and brown sugar), lengua de gato (pastry), latik, yema (sweets), and hot tsokolate​ (chocolate).

Filipinos are very religious, so no wonder these Masses are widely attended. Simbang Gabi is even celebrated in some malls. There is a belief in the Philippines that if a person visits Masses on all nine days, they can make a wish that will eventually come true.

The concept of Simbáng Gabi is somewhat similar to early morning Masses leading to Christmas in Puerto Rico (Misa de Aguinaldo). However, the tradition of early masses goes back to colonial times during Spanish rule. In 1669, Catholic priests started to hold a Mass in the early mornings instead of the afternoons so that farmers could work during the day. As Christmas holidays coincide with the harvest season in the predominantly agricultural Philippines, locals are rather busy growing rice, coconut, and sugarcane.

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Authors: Olha Savych