The first of the dawn Masses, a revered Yuletide tradition in the Philippines, started this morning, ushering the beginning of Christmas.
Roman Catholic Church officials said the nine days of Masses represent the real essence of Christmas, which is love and charity.
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, said Christmas is a time to pray not just for ourselves and our family, but also for others and the whole country.
For Caritas Manila Executive Director Rev. Fr. Anton Pascual, Christmas is sharing one’s blessings with those who are in need.
“We are reminding all the Catholic faithful that material wants is not what we should prioritize during this season, but the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And helping out our brothers and sisters who are suffering is a good way of preparing ourselves for our Savior,” Pascual said.
The Masses, more popularly known among Filipinos as Simbang Gabi, will be celebrated until Christmas Eve. It was introduced to the country by the Spaniards in the 17th century.
The Mass is traditionally held at 4 a.m., so farmers could go to church before they proceed to work in the fields.
But the practice has changed over the years.
Today the time of the religious service has become flexible. In some communities that have their own chapels, it is not unusual for Simbang Gabi to be held the night before, to accommodate parishioners who find it hard waking up too early in the morning.
But most of the faithful adhere to tradition and brave the morning chill to troop to churches that have been decorated with colorful lights.
After the Mass, churchgoers mingle in the churchyard to enjoy the traditional delicacies like puto bumbong and bibingka.