Starting today, Filipino faithful in this predominantly Catholic country will troop again to the churches despite the cold wind usually felt in December.
This is the start of the “Simbang Gabi”, or midnight Mass — a nine-day event from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24 that marks what is described as the longest Christmas season in the world.
From urban enters to the remote countryside — the ringing of church bells at 4 a.m. would signal the “Simbang Gabi”, a tradition that dates back to 1587 in Mexico. That was when Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the convent of San Agustin Acolman, petitioned the Pope to hold Christmas Mass outdoors to accommodate the huge number of people that filled the church.
Upon the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the Philippine in the 17th century, the Christmas Mass tradition was introduced to the native Filipinos and the popularity of the midnight Mass caught on.
The tradition has hardly changed over the centuries.
As it was in the Spanish times, the “Simbang Gabi” was held in the pre-dawn hours to symbolize the actual time of the birth of Christ.
The early morning schedule gave birth to the term “misa de gallo”, which denoted the time when the cocks started crowing.
In the early times, it was said that the parish priest would even go knocking on doors to wake people up and gather them for the “misa de gallo”.
BEBOT SISON JR.
The Philippine Star