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Christmas Eve in PH marked by traditions

Time-tested traditions that have been observed and passed on by generations of Filipinos will take center stage tonight as the nation celebrates Christmas Eve.

In all Catholic churches, shrines, and chapels across the country, the much-anticipated “Misa de Gallo” (Christmas Eve Mass), the culmination of the nine-day “Simbang Gabi” novena masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary that began last December 16, will be celebrated shortly before midnight or earlier in some parishes.

Highlight of the Eucharistic celebration is the reenactment of the journey of Saint Joseph and the Blessed Mother in search of lodging for the soon-to-be born Messiah.

Patterned after the Spanish “Las Posadas,” the religious play is locally known as “panunuluyan,” “pananawagan,” or “pananapatan.” Churchgoers excitedly await the play as it serves as a “reenactment” of the events surrounding the Birth of Jesus Christ. It is traditionally held at the church yard where a manger has been set up.

Church rites will also include the lighting of the white center candle – the Christ candle – in the Advent wreath to herald the Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The Belen or Nativity Scene will also finally be complete with the addition of the Baby Jesus, which has been conspicuously missing in some mangers since it was set up.

According to tradition, the Christmas Eve Mass is held at midnight following the belief that Jesus was born at night (Luke 2:6-8). (Christina I. Hermoso)