The nine-day dawn masses held in honor of the Virgin started Friday and will last until Christmas Day.
The “Simbang Gabi” marked by ringing of church bells at dawn, dates back to 1565, when Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi celebrated the first Feast of the Nativity.
During the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V decreed that the dawn masses be held in the Philippines every 16th of December. The practice originated in Mexico when Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the Convent of San Agustin Acolman, asked permission from the Pope to hold Christmas masses for the farmers who wake up very early to work.
In attending the “Misa de Aguinaldo” (gift mass), churchgoers offer the gift of sacrifice of waking up before the break of dawn for nine consecutive days to attend the dawn masses in thanksgiving, as a form of worship, or for a standing petition. Many faithful believe that completing the nine-day masses would mean the granting of a particular favor.
The masses end on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, with the “Misa de Gallo” (rooster’s mass) at midnight.
After the mass, the churchgoers partakes of native delicacies sold in stalls outside the church like rice cakes (bibingka), puto bungbong, and suman taken with ginger tea (salabat), coffee or hot chocolate.