Sunday, December 21, 2014
Simbang Gabi An Enduring Filipino Christmas Tradition
An enduring Christmas tradition, the nine-day pre-dawn “Simbang Gabi” novena masses will be held in Catholic Churches around country starting today as a prelude to the celebration of the Nativity of Christ.
Considered as one of the oldest Christmas traditions in the Philippines, Church bells will peal very early as the votive masses are held at 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. with the final mass, the Misa de Gallo, celebrated on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, shortly before midnight.
In keeping up with the times and to accommodate the needs of the faithful on different work schedules, anticipated “Simbang Gabi” masses were held last night at around 8 p.m. in many parishes as well as in chapels in shopping centers. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle discourages the holding of ‘Simbang Gabi’ in corridors and hallways of shopping centers and allows the masses to be held only in chapels with the approval of the archdiocese.
Also known as Misa de Aguinaldo (gift mass), churchgoers offer the gift of sacrifice in waking up before the break of dawn for nine consecutive days to attend the dawn masses for various intentions: in thanksgiving, as a form of worship, or for a petition. Others, in traditional Filipino belief, attend to obtain special graces upon completing the nine-day masses. Mass attendance is “a gift for the Child Jesus, a sacrifice, for it requires dedication and discipline,” a Church official said.
The ‘Simbang Gabi’ is an old tradition with deep roots in the country’s religious culture, dating back to 1565 when Spanish “conquistador” Miguel Lopez de Legazpi celebrated the first Feast of the Nativity. The practice originated in Mexico when in 1587, when Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the Convent of San Agustin Acolman, asked permission from the Holy Father to hold Christmas masses for the farmers who woke up very early to work.
In the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V decreed that the dawn masses should also be held in the Philippines every 16th of December. It gave the farmers a chance to hear Mass before working in the fields.
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