Simbang Gabi Origin and Meaning

Simbang Gabi masses commenced nationwide on December 16. Everybody’s talking about it everywhere—at home, school, workplace, even on social networking sites—but do people know where the Dawn Mass originated and what is its meaning?

Simbang Gabi
According to Father Marvin-Paul R. Felipe, SDB, an associate pastor of St. Anne of the Sunset Parish in San Francisco who writes for the Catholic San Francisco, Simbang Gabi traces its origins to Mexico when monastic monk Fray Diego de Soria in 1857 received permission from the Vatican to hold the Christmas Mass outdoor at dawn to accomodate all people.

Originally, it was popularly known as Misa de Gallo. Father Felipe said that during the old times, farmers as well as fishermen used the roosters, which crow at the break of dawn, as their alarm clock. So upon the first crow of the rooster they wake up early to drop by the church before going to their work and ask for the grace of good harvest.

He added that the nine-day masses evolved into a Novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Simbang Gabi is an important Filipino tradition. Father Felipe says it not only strengthens relationships among family members and parishioners, but it is the time where Catholic faith is intensified as well.

Screen grab from a 2003 McDonald’s TV commercial