There will be no 5:00 or 6:30 PM mass during the Simbang Gabi.
SIMBANG GABI is one of the oldest and most popular traditions in the Philippines. It is when Catholic churches across the Philippines start to open their doors shortly before the break of dawn to welcome the faithful to the Simbang Gabi mass. Here at Santo Niño, we celebrate Sibang Gabi in the evening in order to better accommodate people's daytime schedules of work and school.
Simbang Gabi or "Mass at Dawn" is a nine-day novena. A Novena recalls the nine-days that the Disciples spent in Jerusalem praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit from the Ascension to Pentecost. During the Simbang Gabi novena, we pray for nine days to prepare ourselves for the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem.
The novena begins December 15 and continues through December 23. Our nine days of prayer are crowned by the "Misa de Gallo" on Christmas Eve to welcome the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. In some churches, the panuluyan is reenacted showing the effort of Joseph and Mary to find a suitable birthplace.
Simbang Gabi traces its roots in Mexico when, in 1587, the Pope granted the petition of Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the convent of San Agustin Acolman, to hold Christmas mass outdoors because the Church could not accommodate the huge number of people attending the evening mass.
During the old times, the pre-dawn mass was announced by the ringing of the church bells. In some rural areas, an hour before the start of Simbang Gabi, a brass band would play Christmas music all over the town. It is also believed that parish priests would go far knocking on doors to wake and gather the faithful to attend the misa de gallo. Farmers as well as fishermen woke up early to hear the Gospel before going to their work and ask for the grace of good harvest.
SIMBANG GABI NOW AND THEN
The changing of times does not break the preservation of celebrating Simbang Gabi although it is celebrated in new ways. Still, the tradition of Simbang Gabi continues. Part of it are the colorful lights and lanterns that fill every streets. Beautiful parols are hung in every window. Songs of the season are played everywhere to warm the hearts. Families, friends and even individuals find its way going to the nearest church to attend the nine-day novena. Shortly after the misa de gallo, families gather in their homes to celebrate Noche Buena and feasted on various delicacies like queso de bola, bibingka, puto bungbong, or a drink of salabat or hot chocolate.
Simbang Gabi has become one of the most popular traditions in the country. But it is not just a tradition that is celebrated because we need to do so. It is a significant moment not only because it strengthens relationships among family members but also because it is the time where our faith is intensified. This is the time where we mostly feel the presence of the Lord because it is the spiritual preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. It does not matter if one has the stamina to complete the novena or not, what really matters is what is inside the heart. The blessing does not depend on the number of mass attended, but what is important is the disposition of the person who receives the Lord's blessing.