History of Misa de Gallo in the Philippines

13 December 2022
History of Misa de Gallo in the Philippines

Countdown to Christmas Eve starts as early as September 1 in the Philippines, making the nation world-renowned for celebrating Christmas the longest. This is evidenced by the very early Christmas greetings to each other, Christmas songs playing on radios and shopping malls, and the hanging of Christmas ornaments on Filipino houses, all commencing in the advent of the proverbial "Ber" season.


Simbang Gabi, the Filipino version of the Misa de Gallo, formally begins in a few days, and Lumina Homes aim to zero in on the history behind Filipinos' enduring tradition of attending Simbang Gabi masses, as well as its crucial importance to our collective Filipino identity.



What is Simbang Gabi?

With Christianity being the predominant religion practiced in the Philippines, church attendance is every Christian and Catholic Filipino's way of living out their religious customs, especially in the latter part of the year during the holiday season. "Simbang Gabi" is literally Night Mass, which is observed with nine dawn masses from December 16 to 24, just before Christmas Eve.


Early morning masses start as early as 3 am to 5 am. By December 24, there is also a nighttime mass held a few hours just before the advent of Christmas Eve, when Filipino families gather to celebrate the occasion with loved ones, relatives, and close friends. Completing the nine-day series of church attendance is widely believed to grant the wishes of the Holy Mass attendees as part of the novena.


History of Misa de Gallo

The chronicle of the first Christmas Mass was heralded by Egeria, a Galician woman who underwent a pilgrimage to the Holy Land around 381-86. She bore witness to how one of the earliest Catholics of Jerusalem paid their respects to Christmas with a midnight vigil held at Bethlehem, the biblical Nativity site of Jesus Christ.


The vigil was then followed by a procession of pilgrims holding torchlight toward Jerusalem, reaching the Church of the Ressurection by dawn.


Misa de Gallo among Predominantly Catholic Countries

Besides the Philippines, a few other countries also observe Misa de Gallo based on their unique cultural traditions. These are the countries of Spain, and former Spanish colonies such as Bolivia, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.



In Spain, where Filipino traditions, customs, and thousands of words from our lingua franca have mostly derived from, natives observe Christmas Eve by lighting small oil lamps in their homes, and would then proceed to a nearby Catholic church to attend the midnight mass.



In Bolivia, locals would also attend their own version of the Simbang Gabi mass, which ensues in a sit-down meal celebration with a bowl of picana del pollo, a meat stew made out of chicken with peas, potatoes, and carrots.


Puerto Rico.

In Puerto Rico, meanwhile, Puerto Ricans commemorate the birth of Baby Jesus through a Mass singing Christmas songs, locally known as aguinaldos. The more profoundly religious renditions of these Christmas songs are known as villancicos, and the Criollo-inspired songs are called décimas navideñas.



In Venezuela, finally, is very similar to the Philippines' tradition. Their version is called Misa de Aguinaldo, the Spanish term for Christmas box. The occasion is also observed through a series of attending nine dawn masses that culminate on Christmas Eve.


How Simbang Gabi Began in the Philippines

Simbang Gabi in the Philippines traces its origin to the 1600s during the Spanish occupation of the country. During these early times, fisherfolk and farmers begin working in the earliest hours of the day to avoid the peak of noon when sunlight is at its most merciless. For this reason, priests decided to hold masses in the early morning instead of the traditional novenas to cater to Filipino farmers.


Misa de Gallo, meaning "Rooster's Mass" in Spanish, was passed down to the country by Spain to explain the essence of Christmas to Filipinos. From 1680 to 1689 however, this Christmas tradition was put to a halt because, at that time, the singing of Christmas hymns in one's native tongue was considered inappropriate or irregular for the occasion.


The singing of Christmas songs in the vernacular was only allowed during the commencement and culmination of the Holy Mass. In consequence, a Vatican decree was put into effect by then-Manila Archbishop Felipe Pardo. The Vatican ruling was also implemented in the countries of Mexico, Spain, and the Azores.


The resumption of the Filipino Christmas tradition began after Archbishop Pardo's death, prompting priests to continue the Misa de Gallo tradition during every Christmas season, except for the Discalced Franciscans or Alcarantines.



Importance of Simbang Gabi among Filipinos

The religious observance of Misa de Gallo continued even during the Spanish-American war in 1898. At the turn of the century, this tradition remained and became even more celebrated and served to beckon local festivities in observance of the Christmas season.


It has ceased becoming just a religious practice for Filipino Christians and has become a family tradition instrumental to the get-together of Filipino families in an intimate dinner with sumptuous Christmas dishes at the dinner table.


At the same time, Simbang Gabi serves as Filipinos' way to connect back to God after a long year of hardships and triumphs, thanking God for blessings, asking forgiveness for sins, imploring guidance in times of doubt, and wishing for prosperity and good health for the entire family.


The early morning masses are announced to commence with the ringing of church bells from any of the Roman Catholic churches in the country. After attending the dawn mass, Filipinos would flock around sellers of bibingka (rice cakes), suman, and puto bumbong, with a pandesal dipped in hot coffee to resume the day.


At present, the love for Christmas among Filipinos, even to the younger generation, endures. Many Filipinos still congregate in churches to utter their thanks to the Lord and spend quality time with the family to hear Mass, eat together after, and go home spiritually connected back to God.



Reside Near Churches in Your Area This Simbang Gabi Season

Christmas is one of the most important, if not the most important itself, holidays in the Philippines. It is a predominantly Christian nation comprising more than 80 percent of Christians. It is for this reason that the nation puts a premium on the holidays as the most crucial of the year, with a celebration starting as early as when the "Ber" months commence.


Lumina Homes is a premier developer of an affordable house and lot for sale. At present, the real estate brand has over 50 key developments strategically scattered all throughout the Philippines from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.


Lumina Homes, moreover, ensures convenience and comfort among its present and future homeowners, including nearby places of worship for religious families, especially at a time when church attendance is gathering a mass of attendees to celebrate the Christmas season.


Become a Lumina homeowner of a quality house and lot in the Philippines today by booking a reservation with us through our website. You can also drop your inquiries via any of our social media accounts from Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Avail an affordable house and lot before Christmas as a gift to yourself and your family this holiday season!

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