Simbang Gabi: A Brief Explanation of the Filipino Christmas Tradition

Updated on December 23, 2016

Simbang Gabi is a Filipino Christmas tradition. It is a series of nine dawn masses. The mass starts as early as 4:00 a.m. It begins on December 16 and ends on the midnight of the 24th of December, which is the midnight mass.

This tradition was introduced by the Spanish friars to allow the farmers to hear mass before going to the fields early in the morning. Simbang Gabi is also known by its popular Spanish name as the Misa de Gallo, or "Mass of the Rooster.''

In the olden days, the church bells start ringing as early as three o' clock, waking people up so they can get ready for the four o'clock dawn mass.

The Roman Catholic churches across the nation start to open their doors shortly before the break of dawn to welcome the faithfuls to the Simbang Gabi mass.

Today, the tradition of Simbang Gabi continues whether you live in the city or in the province, although it is celebrated in new ways. Most churches are decorated with colorful lights and beautiful parol lanterns to welcome the church goers.

The Nativity Scene or Belen is displayed in preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It shows baby Jesus in a manger with Mother Mary and Saint Joseph. There are shepherds and farm animals. A complete scenario of the Belen includes the three wise men carrying their gifts to Infant Jesus and the star of Bethlehem that guided them in their journey.

Shortly after the mass, traditional delicacies awaits the church goers, there are food stalls right outside the church, popular favourites are bibingka, puto (rice cakes), puto bungbong, suman sa pasko, suman sa ibos, and usually served with tea or coffee. Hot pandesal (breakfast rolls) are also very popular.

Simbang Gabi is not just a tradition that is celebrated because we need to do so. But it is also the spiritual preparation for Christmas, in commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The celebration is also seen as a way of requesting blessings from the Lord, as most people believe that if one completes the whole series of nine dawn masses, wishes will be granted.

Over the years, Filipinos communities have made some changes in the way that this event is celebrated. Some urban parishes now celebrates Misa de Gallo around 8- 9 in the evening in order to accommodate the needs of the members of the community who have different work schedules.

Simbang Gabi is also recognized by Catholic Filipino communities who are living elsewhere in the world. No matter how or when this celebration takes place, Simbang Gabi provides a strong indication of the depth of Catholicism among the Filipino people.

Questions & Answers


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        Trixie Vencis Escoto 15 months ago

        It's very nice...

        now I know why we celebrate christmas and how Misa de Gallo is important to us...

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        Venice Tabas 2 years ago

        nice thanks

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        jianclyde 4 years ago

        aside from simbang gabi, filipinos are also known spent Christmas the longest starting Sept. until the end of three kings sometime in January.

        as soon as the ber months start Filipinos will immediately put up decorations unlike in western customs they put up there Christmas tree days before christmas.

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        Justin Beiber 5 years ago

        So cool. I want to go to the Philippines

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        jariz 6 years ago

        thanks!!! its really's a big help in me. now i know why we always do that.

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        may 6 years ago


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        Roman Numeral Conversion Worksheets 6 years ago

        thanx.. sa gumwa nto...:)

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        princess 7 years ago

        why is it called "simbang gabi" e madaling araw naman talaga siya ginaganap dati? thank you! =)

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        slp 7 years ago

        In the Phils. the novena of masses in preparation for Chhristmas is called "Misa de Gallo" because the masses are at 4:00 o'clock in the early dawn at the crowing of the cock (gallo). In the States it has come to be known as Simbang Gabi and they have it at 7:00 PM. Hope you see the distinction!

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        andre 7 years ago

        haha rooster :) can't wait to get back to the Philippines :) i like to recommend using when you want to send something to the Philippines

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        jenny arancon 8 years ago

        correction lang misa de gallo means dawn mass not mass

        of the rooster

      • sillywalk profile image

        sillywalk 8 years ago

        Great hub. Nobody does Christmas like the Filipinos.

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        may 9 years ago

        hello miss mm, i wanna know how come they called it simbang gabi if they are doing it early in the morning?

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        cj 9 years ago

        ei.. tnx.. laking help nito s paper work q..

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        ck_torqx01 9 years ago

        .,..mga guyzzz,thankz sa info dito!!!!sana marami pa kayong matulungang mga mag-aaral na tulad ko!!!!!

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        chuch_lord 10 years ago

        sAlAmAt Po Sa PaNiNiWaLa Sa SiMbAnG gAbI:3

      • MM Del Rosario profile image

        MM Del Rosario 10 years ago from NSW, Australia

        Hi Rowena,

        glad to be of help. thanks for dropping by.


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        Rowena 10 years ago

        Thanks for the info. i've found it very useful wd my presentation.

      • MM Del Rosario profile image

        MM Del Rosario 10 years ago from NSW, Australia

        Hi Rmnathan,

        thanks for dropping by and do come back.

      • Rmnathan profile image

        Rmnathan 10 years ago from Sharjah

        Good information. Thanks.