For all Filipino Catholics and Christians, Christmas officially starts on the 16th of December – that’s tomorrow!
The start of the Advent Novena Masses is on the 16th and is traditionally held in the early morning beginning tomorrow. Often called as Simbang Gabi or Misa De Gallo, it is a 9-day Eucharistic Celebration to prepare for the commemoration of the coming of Jesus Christ in the world.
Some churches have veered away from the traditional early morning Misa De Gallo (4am) and instead hold masses at night, usually at around 9 or 10 in the evening.
I love the Simbang Gabi. I was a choir member back in the 90s and singing at the choir loft of our parish during this time is always special. Aside from singing songs that we don’t usually sing the rest of the year, I think it’s the over-all mood in and out of the Church. It’s so Christmassy! It’s so Pinoy!
The Novena Masses also signals the start of the Christmas Carols. Groups of young kids and even adults visit houses at night to sing traditional and contemporary carol songs in return for some cash tokens or gifts.
I started joining caroling groups when I was just a little kid. It’s like a summer job in December because after that 9-day nightly gig, I am able to raise enough money to buy myself some toys or whatever I like at Christmas day!
Aside from singing inside the church, the other thing that I love during this season is singing outside the church. Our choir quickly turns into a caroling group at night and we get to visit the neighborhood and perform for different audiences. It’s so fulfilling.
Lastly, we will also see a lot of stores on the street that sells holiday favorites Puto Bumbong and Bibingka. These “pop-up” stores are usually found near the churches.
What’s a Pinoy Christmas without these delicious treats! Puto Bumbong and Bibingka are usually paired with a cup of Hot Chocolate and Queso de Bola. Yummy!
And that is how Christmas starts here in the Philippines. The holidays are indeed more fun here!