The Dawns Of Christmas
Today marked the offical start of Christmas in our country. Filipinos across the archipelago woke up before light to attend dawn mass (usually held at 4 o' clock in the morning) with families or friends at their respective parishes. Traditionally, Christmas Day in the Philippines is ushered in by the nine-day dawn masses that start on Dec. 16. Known as the Misas de Aguinaldo (Gift Masses in the traditional Spanish), these masses are more popularly known as the Simbang Gabi. The novena of Masses traces its' roots back to 1587, when the celebration was introduced in Mexico. Spanish missionaries brought the tradition to the Philippines in the 17th century to encourage the faith of the Filipino people. In the Philippines, the Masses were held at 4 a.m. to accommodate the farmers who had to be on the fields at dawn during harvest season. In spite of the early hour, an entire town would be in attendance in some communities. The Simbang Gabi is the most important Filipino Christmas tradition. The nine dawn masses are also considered as a novena by the Catholic faithful. This refers to the Roman Catholic practice of performing nine days of private or public devotion to obtain special graces. Going to mass this early for nine consecutive days is meant to show the churchgoer's devotion to his faith and heighten anticipation for the Nativity of the Lord. In traditional Filipino belief, however, completing the novena is also supposed to mean that God would grant the devotee's special wish or favor.
After hearing mass, it is time for another favorite Filipino Christmas tradition. Families partake of traditional Philippine Christmas delicacies, either during breakfast at home or outside the church. Vendors offer a wealth of native delicacies, including bibingka (rice cake), puto bumbong (a purple sticky rice delicacy which is steamed in wooden tubes), salabat (ginger tea) and thick cocoa.
I just love living in a country steeped in so much tradition! Sure, I can hardly keep my eyes open at work and each morning it is a struggle to wake up at 3 or 3:30am to drag myself off my comfortable bed, dress up and leave to attend mass with my family. Nine freaking days of floating through my daily routine bleary eyed. Yet, I wouldn't have it any other way. It makes Christmas all the more meaningful for me and others who try their darndest best to complete these nine days.