Starting today, the Catholic faithful will be roused by the early pealing of church bells for the first dawn mass or Simbang Gabi, a Filipino tradition that marks the start of the Christmas celebration.
The nine-day dawn masses start 4 a.m., although some parishes held an anticipated Simbang Gabi mass at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle urged the Catholics to attend the dawn masses until the Christmas Eve. The more devout Catholics complete the novena masses in the hope to obtaining special graces and favors.
“We wish to encourage the practice of Simbang Gabi, whether at dawn or anticipated masses the previous night, because it is a source of spiritual nourishment for our faithful,” Tagle said in a circular.
Based on the guidelines released by the Catholic Church, the Misa de Aguinaldo [Simbang gabi] should be celebrated from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.
“Therefore, only the dawn and when pastorally required, the evening Masses are considered Simbang Gabi or Misa de Aguinaldo,” Tagle said.
He discouraged the holding of dawn masses outside churches such as in malls or shopping centers.
“We do not allow Simbang Gabi to be celebrated in corridors or hallways of shopping malls where the celebration of the Eucharist is needlessly exposed to shoppers that are indifferent to the celebration,” he said.
The practice of Simbang Gabi was introduced by the Spanish clergy. It had since become an annual event that people look forward to, because it heralds the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
After mass, people would have an early breakfast of puto bumbong or bibingka, bought from vendors near churches.