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Misa de Gallo – A Christmas Tradition

With the Philippines being under the Spanish rule for over 600 years, the colonizers have greatly influenced the Filipino people. Their biggest influence however is the Roman Catholic faith with millions of devotees practicing the religion. Besides observing Holy Week and Christmas, one of the most special religious events is the Misa de Gallo or Dawn Mass.

Translated as “Mass of the Rooster” the Misa de Gallo is believed to have been started in the 18th century by a Spanish Friar to specifically allow farmers to attend mass which are usually held as early as 4 in the morning. These masses were held this early to allow farmers to attend to their fields after the mass. Originally, the Misa de Gallo was held as a means of Thanksgiving for a year’s bountiful harvest. These masses are celebrated every day, nine days before Christmas, or on December 16 to December 25 along with a novena. In the past, a brass band would usually play and priests would knock on doors to wake up the towns people in order to attend mass.

Today, Misa de Gallo is still observed in majority of the towns in the Philippines. Devotees would often wear their best clothes to these masses which are held at dawn, or in some churches, at night. It is believed that any person who would be able to complete the nine dawn masses would have their wishes or prayers answered.

Bibingka and puto bumbong, which are considered as Christmas delicacies are also part of the Misa de Gallo tradition since these treats are often sold outside the churches which are bought for breakfast or midnight snack of people who attended the mass.

In Pampanga, besides the Misa de Gallo, they also hold the Lubenas ning Pasku, a religious procession that starts at the eve of the Dawn Masses and ends on Christmas. For nine nights, different barangays in the towns of Pampanga’s parade their saint followed by a lantern shaped like a fish, representing Christ, and 12 lanterns that represents the 12 disciples of Jesus. The highlight of this procession however, are the singers that join the procession that sing “Dios te Salve” (the Spanish version of Hail Mary) repeatedly all throughout the procession.

The Lubenas is also considered as a form of penance since the devotees after joining the Lubenas at night also have to wake up early at dawn of the Misa de Gallo.

Although this Christmas tradition has been vanishing for the past decades, it’s good to know that there are still several towns observing this religious practice such as the cities of Mabalacat, Angeles, and San Fernando.

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