The 9 Mornings Of Christmas
Christmas In The Philippines
No authentic Christian Filipino Christmas is complete without the traditional simbang gabi or early morning novena mass. The nine simbang gabi masses have since become more than just an empty ritual for Pinoys during this season.
Gift Of Self
The nine mornings of the simbang gabi season is a sacrifice in itself—folks have to get up in the wee hours of the night to catch the 4:30AM mass at their local parish churches. Thankfully, there is an alternative 8:30PM mass for those who really can’t afford to wake up early to hear the morning mass.
Whichever timeslot you prefer, you’d still have to make the extra effort to go to church and complete all the nine masses. The simbang gabi is meant to prepare people for the coming of Christ and to help them grasp the true meaning of the season. For Catholics, Christmas is not so much a time for festivities and parties but a time of gratitude for the coming of the Lord Savior.
One Wish Granted
You’d think that with all the trouble that comes with the simbang gabi, very few people will ever want to attend the masses, but the tradition has only grown stronger over the years, especially with the introduction of the night masses.
Even those who are not very religious for the rest of the year suddenly become avid churchgoers come Christmastime. Parents drag their kids from bed or from in front of the TV, dress them up in their finest Sunday clothes and bring them to church to listen to the longer-than-usual homilies. Some parish priests come up with short sing-and-dance numbers to help wake up the people just before they delve into the gospel for the day.
At the same time, there is also the matter of a wish granted to encourage people to come to simbang gabi—completing all nine mornings will entitle you to one special wish for the following year. Before you know it, your wish will come true and you will find yourself gearing up for the next year’s simbang gabi.
Another reason why Filipinos love to go to simbang gabi—apart from religious purposes, of course—is that it is also the season for trying out all the best-loved traditional delicacies. Although some of these treats are available all year long, the simbang gabi somehow makes every mouthful that much more sumptuous.
Puto bumbong (small columns of yam-colored glutinous rice topped with toasted coconut shaving, bibingka (rice cakes slathered with butter), puto at kutsinta, palitaw, pandesal and taho (cooked soya with syrup) are just some of the more famous native snacks that you can munch on after hearing mass. They go down especially well with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
And you don’t have to seek out these yummy treats at all. Vendors put up stall across the church or right inside its yard to tend to sleepy, hungry parishioners. The next time you go on a trip to the Philippines, set your alarm clock really early and attend one of the simbang gabi masses.
Want to know more about the Pinoy Christmastime? Watch out for more special Christmas articles on Holiday Philippines Blog!