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Simbang Gabi and Kakanin

The essence of Christmas Celebration among Filipinos Photo Credits: Traveler on Foot & LARAWAN ATBP & Behold Philippines Filipinos' love for prepping their houses with yuletide decor at the onset of the "ber" months earned the Philippines the tile of having the longest Christmas celebration in the world. Business establishments also join the folly when, they start putting up Christmas themes on their display windows. Radio and television channels begin to play yuletide carols, and the songs fill the airwaves everywhere. Overall, holiday spirit begins to possess the country as early as September. Beyond all this festive atmosphere, however, Filipinos religiosity remains eminent. They believe that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. And Catholics, which make up the majority of Filipinos. continue to practice the ancient tradition of attending Simbang Gabi or Misa de Aguinaldo (gift mass). The Spanish colonizers started the tradition in 1669. At the onset of the Christmas season, the friars began to say masses in the early morning before the workers, mostly farmers, went out to tend their fields. What is Simbang Gabi? The Simbang Gabi is a nine-day mass that begins on the 16th of December and ends on Christmas Eve, the 24th. The culmination of the mass is called Misa de Gallo. The mass is held at the crack of the dawn, normally at 4 a.m. Schedules, however, vary in many places; there are those who had it as early as 3 a.m. and as late as 5 a.m.  It is believed that anyone who completed the nine-day mass will have his or her wishes come true.  To this day, the Simbang Gabi has become a venue for the younger generations to mingle and to gather their friends. Schoolmates join together to hear the early morning mass and proceed to their schools afterwards. The same is true to the young professionals who hear the mass before going to work. Partners and lovers also attend the mass and make the church their meeting place.  But the most exciting part in attending the Simbang Gabi is the breakfast that follows. The aromas of freshly cooked bibingka (cake made from sticky rice cooked in a clay mould with fire both under and on top) and the puto-bumbong (another rice cake inserted in two bamboo tubes, usually tinted in purple or ube and steam cooked) greet churchgoers immediately after the mass. Lined along the streets that lead to the church are sellers of Filipino rice cakes and delicacies. Thee rice cakes are an integral part of the Simbang Gabi tradition. They are usually served with a warm chocolate drink called tablea. There are also carinderia that mushroom close to the church. They offer hot meals like lugaw (rice porridge) and arroz caldo (rice porridge mixed with chicken). Not to be missed is everyone's favorite, hot pandesal, served straight from the oven. It is best eaten with freshly brewed coffee, kapeng barako, mixed with fresh cow or carabao's milk. Overall, the Simbang Gabi experience is both religious and gastronomic. It embodies Filipinos religiosity and love for food that become more evident during the Christmas season.  Photo Sources - Behold Philippines: https://www.beholdphilippines.com/10-beloved-filipino-christmas-traditions/ - Traveler on Foot: https://traveleronfoot.wordpress.com/tag/tradtional-filipino-christmas/ - LARAWAN ATBP: http://larawanatbp.blogspot.com/2013/

Simbang Gabi and Kakanin
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