For the Catholic Church, December 16 is the official start of the Christmas Season together with its Simbang Gabi (Night Mass), also called Misa de Gallo(Rooster’s Mass) in Spanish. ‘Simbang Gabi’ is a nine-day dawn masses is intended to prepare everyone spiritually for Christmas Day. This novena of Masses is the most important Filipino Christmas tradition.
Some church starts the Simbang Gabi as early as four o’clock in the morning. Other church hold anticipated masses a night before. Attending these masses for nine consecutive days is meant to show the churchgoer’s devotion, faith and high anticipation for the Nativity of Jesus. Traditionally, Filipinos believe that completing the novena means that God would grant the devotee’s special wish.
During this season vendors abound outside the Church to offer native delicacies, including bibingka (rice flour and egg based cake, cooked using coals on top of and under the pastry), puto bumbong (a purple sticky rice delicacy which is steamed in bamboo tubes, with brown sugar and shredded dried coconut meat served as condiments), salabat (hot ginger tea) and tsokolate(thick Spanish cocoa).
The Christmas celebration ends during the first Sunday of January. This Sunday marks the Epiphany-celebration of the visit of the Three Kings to the infant Jesus.