Merry Christmas! This day, December 16, is considered the official start of the Christmas season in the Philippines. During the very early hours of the morning (literally before the gallo or rooster crows), millions troop to churches all over the country to hear the first of the pre-dawn masses celebrated daily until the 23rd. Traditional belief is that if one manages to attend all eight pre-dawn masses plus the midnight mass on Christmas eve, one will have a wish granted on Christmas Day.
Also called simbang gabi or aguinaldo mass, the pre-dawn rites also mark the unveiling of the parish church’s Christmas creche or Nativity scene which is locally known as the belen.
The misa de gallo is a test of faith, willpower and endurance for Filipinos of all ages. By the fourth or fifth day, it is not uncommon to see at least one churchgoer faint from a combination of hunger, lack of proper sleep, and in some instances, boredom (haha). Definitely not battling boredom are the young couples who take advantage of the semi-darkness of the church grounds to engage in a little courtship/flirting, under the can’t-be-watchful eyes of their parents. Or so I’ve heard.
Does your community observe a similar Christmas tradition (religious or otherwise)? I know that Christmas Eve midnight masses are quite common in other parts of the world but what are your other community traditions?
Because it is now Christmas in the Philippines, here’s something extra for my Filipino readers. This is one of the most popular Filipino Christmas songs and a track from what many consider to be the definitive Filipino Christmas album, Pamasko ng Mga Bituin. Sing along if you want. Maligayang Pasko! :)