The Novena before Christmas has started. In the Philippines, this is a special time, celebrated mainly by participating in solemn Holy Masses called “Simbang Gabi”.


Simbang Gabi in the Philippines takes place daily from December 16 to 24. It is celebrated at various times, from 3:00 to 5:00 am local time. On the last day of Simbang Gabi, or Christmas Eve, the service is called Misa de Gallo (meaning “rooster mass”).

This custom of attending Mass in the morning is very popular and also plays an important role in Philippine culture. The tradition dates back to the 17th century and was adapted from Spain.


A well-known folk belief is that if a faithful completes all nine days of Simbang Gabi, God can grant the request made as part of the novena. Perhaps for this reason, during the novena all churches are always full of faithful, despite such an early hour.


Similar to the Spanish tradition of lighting small oil lamps on Christmas Eve, Philippines decorates their homes with colorful star-shaped lanterns. It is believed that they were originally used by the faithful to illuminate the way to the church in the early morning, and also symbolized the Star of Bethlehem. Glowing stars continue to be popular Christmas decorations in the Philippines, as iconic and symbolic as Christmas trees in the West.