Monday, December 13, 2010

Simbang gabi, a century-old tradition that is still very much part of Pinoy Christmas

Pinoy Christmas will not be complete without observing the novena at dawn popularly known as simbang gabi. Held at 4 o’clock in the morning and kicks off every 16th of December, simbang gabi is a novena held during Christmas season and being followed by Catholics in the hope of receiving special blessing from God. Filipino Catholics believe that by completing the novena, God will grant their wish.

Simbang Gabi culminates in the Misa de Gallo or Rooster’s Mass held on Christmas Eve. Why rooster? It is believed that the rooster was among the first to witness Christ’s birth, hence the name.

Simbang Gabi scenes

Churchgoers clad in maong and wool jackets. Lolos and lolas trying to focus (and not sleep) during the priest’s homily. Bright church patio or altar.

These are the common sight of simbang gabi in the Philippines with the backdrop of shadows of teen couples lurking in the church corner or garden.

And who will miss the queue of tinderos and tinderas in front of the church during this season? They offer churchgoers a variety of local snacks, drinks and dishes from:

  1. bibingka (flour and egg cakes cooked on top and under) to
  2. puto bumbong (a purple colored rice pastry, seasoned with grated-coconut and brown sugar) to
  3. kutsinta to
  4. higute (how natives of Morong, Rizal, Philippines call porridge) to
  5. hot chocolate

Did you know?

That simbang gabi started in the Spanish colonial era when Filipino farmers and parishioners would hear early dawn masses before toiling the land. But Wikipedia noted, “The Simbang Gabi timing originated not just out of devotion, but also due to practicality (sic).”

The Spanish friars (frailes y cura parrocos) wanted the majority of Filipinos, who were mostly farmers, to hear the novena during Christmas season and since Filipino farmers then worked early in the day, the Spanish friars compromised and held the mass at dawn. As the farmers did not have much to offer, offerings then were sacks of rice, fruits, vegetables and fresh eggs, which the friars shared to parishioners and thus became the tradition of breakfasts after simbang gabi.

Up to today, most Filipinos believe that completing the novena of simbang gabi will make one’s wish come true. So be it a boyfriend, a baby or money, let’s be part of simbang gabi, wherever we may be.

Simbang gabi in Singapore

Please click here to view the schedule of Simbang Gabi in Singapore.


No comments:

Post a Comment