Every year it starts on the 16th of December and ends on the 24th.
It used to be a dawn mass everywhere in the archipelago.
Over the years though some churches in other places started doing it as a night mass.
Simbang gabi is just like a novena. The church goers can pray for their wishes.
Many believe that if they are able to complete the 9-day dawn mass their wish would be granted.
I used to attend Simbang Gabi with family, friends and relatives when I was young.
We woke up as early as around 3 am.
We walked miles from our village to the church at the center of the town.
From the village we passed by the cemetery.
We, the youngs and the olds, run as fast as we could once we were near that place.
When we stopped running, we started laughing at our silliness.
It was fun.
We were excited.
At least on the first two days or so.
After a while we could not get up early anymore to attend the mass.
I never completed the 9-day Simbang Gabi.
I studied college in a Catholic university.
I used to live in one of the students’ apartments just outside the university.
My place was just like 5-minute walk to the University church.
Needless to say me and my room mates attempted to complete the Simbang Gabi.
We woke up as early as 3am.
We wore our Sunday dresses.
At the start of the mass, we were fully awake.
Before the homily though we were already too sleepy.
Initialy we kept pinching each other’s arms to stay awake.
That worked for the first three days.
On the 4th day we could not wake up early anymore.
Waking up at 3am for the Simbang Gabi.
Attending our working student duties from 7 am to 4pm.
And going to our classes from 5pm to 9pm took its toll on our teenage bodies.
Plus, classmates and neighbors teasing us that they had seen us sleeping during the mass.
We stopped attending the dawn mass.
However we wanted to.
We never completed the 9-day Christmas novena!
It’s a good thing though that most of my wishes still came true.
God is good all the time.