Photo by Storm Crypt_Flickr

Simbang Gabi by Storm Crypt

Today, the 16th of December, is important to a lot of Catholic Filipinos for it signals Day One of Simbang Gabi – the nine-day series of masses, usually celebrated at dawn, Filipinos have been observing since the time of Spanish colonisation. To the untrained eye, Simbang Gabi looks like another Pinoy festival best spent with family, friends, and well, lots of food. And it might very well be, with all the sideshows and highlights mass goers are treated to, dawn after dawn.

Personally, I was never able to complete Simbang Gabi. There would always be one morning – or two – that I wouldn’t wake up in time for the mass. But memories of the the sights, sounds and smells of Simbang Gabi remain fresh in my head.

If you have been observing this unique Pinoy tradition, then you would totally relate to the following observations surrounding Simbang Gabi. Feel free to add more as I’m sure there’s a-plenty!

1. Setting your alarm clock to 3am on day one because you dread being late for the mass celebration, but you end up tossing and turning and hardly sleeping at all because of too much excitement! Either that, or you totally snooze through your alarm clock and you dart out of the house at 5am, just when everyone’s coming back from the mass. Ouch.

2. Dusting off your ‘winter’ outfit and taking them out for a very rare tropical country appearance because of the December chill.

3. Instant rendezvous with friends who, like you, are also trying to complete Simbang Gabi this year. And even though you arrived late and had to stand outside the chapel, you’re partly glad because you like the feel of the breeze on your face while listening to the sermon. And you just spied your crush standing a few meters away from you. Yihee.

4. The smell of puto bumbong and bibingka in the air is making you heady with hunger. You will have your fair share of this carb-rich Pinoy pastry for nine straight days and you won’t even mind because they’re just sooo buttery good!

Bibingka_Pangasinan_Shubert Ciencia

Bibingka vendor by Shubert Ciencia

5. Having festive breakfasts with the whole family. This season is definitely special because of the effortless way it brings your whole family together through the word of God – and scrumptious food!

Finally, you are really looking forward to completing Simbang Gabi this year so you can finally make that wish that has eluded you for years. Age-old belief tells us that whatever wish you make at the end of the nine-day mass celebration will be granted – provided you didn’t miss a single Simbang Gabi.

So, how did your first Simbang Gabi go this morning?

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