Simbang GabiSIMBANG GABI is one of the oldest and most popular among the Filipino traditions in the Philippines. Simbang Gabi is a nine-day novena to the Blessed Mother. The novena begins December 16, as early as 4 in the morning, and culminates with the "Misa de Gallo" on Christmas Eve to welcome the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. In some churches, the "panuluyan" is reenacted showing the effort of Joseph and Mary to find a suitable birthplace.
ORIGIN: Simbang Gabi traces its roots in Mexico when, in 1587, the Pope granted the petition of Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the convent of San Agustin Acolman, to hold Christmas mass outdoors because the church could not accommodate the huge number of people attending the evening mass. During the olden times, the pre-dawn mass was announced by the ringing of the church bells. In some rural areas, an hour before the start of Simbang Gabi, a brass band played Christmas music all over the town. It is also believed that parish priests would go as far knocking on doors to wake and gather the faithful. Farmers as well as fishermen woke up early to hear the Gospel before going to their work, and ask for the grace of a good harvest.
SIMBANG GABI THEN AND NOW: The changing of times does not break the preservation of celebrating Simbang Gabi, although it is celebrated in new ways. Still, the tradition of Simbang Gabi lives on. Part of it is the colorful lights and lanterns that fill every street. Beautiful parols (Star Lanterns) are hung in every window. Songs of the season are played everywhere to warm the hearts. Families, friends and individuals find their way to the nearest church to attend the nine-day novena. Shortly after the Christmas eve "misa de gallo", families gather in their homes to celebrate "Noche Buena" and feast on various delicacies like queso de bola (cheese ball), bibingka and puto bungbong (rice cakes), or a drink of salabat (ginger tea) or hot chocolate.
SIMBANG GABI IN THE U.S.A.: Simbang Gabi was brought to the US by Filipino Americans to share the spiritual richness of the celebration with their communities. Most of the parishes, including those in the diocese of San José, celebrate Simbang Gabi in the evening to accommodate working Catholics, so they can join and participate in the celebration. The Spirituality of Simbang Gabi (Advent evening masses) calls us to nurture the spirit of Advent not only as individual preparation, but to prepare as a community, a family of God united in worship and in prayer. We bring our families and friends to the Eucharist, joining the entire community in waiting, and being strengthened by God's Spirit in preparing for the birth of Jesus.