Filipinos usher Christmas with nine days novena Masses. Simbang Gabi or “Dawn Masses” as these Masses are called, are usually celebrated at the crack of dawn, hence; its other name, Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass). The first day is on December 16th.
I have always tried to complete the Simbang Gabi, but it is really difficult to be up in the morning to attend 4:30 AM Masses. I probably only completed a few.
Recently, churches have offered options to Novena-goers. Simbang Gabi is now celebrated in some churches in the evening (instead of early morning).
Simbang Gabi is the final stretch leading up to the main event—Christmas Eve Mass. Churches are festive with parols (lantern stars), lights, and early morning treats of puto bungbong and bibingka. When I was younger, these Masses were the perfect opportunity for me to reconnect with neighbors and friends I don’t see often due to conflicting schedules.
Churches in my new community have adopted the Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi. Although it is different from how it is celebrated in the Philippines, I am grateful that we celebrate it in my local church. My children will see that unique practices and traditions from the Philippines have a place in the United States..