Filipino Christmases are always full of colour and for the last eight years, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing just how lively celebrations can be. Traditions play an important part in a Filipino Christmas, and one that’s particularly close to my heart is the Simbang Gabi, or Midnight Mass.
Simbang Gabi is a nine-day devotion to the Virgin Mary, and has become a way of celebrating with the entire community. Traditionally, the masses take place at 4 a.m., but in recent years, evening masses have also been offered to encourage the younger members of the parish to attend. After the mass, many people stay to eat and drink with friends and family–the area surrounding the church is usually full of vendors selling snacks and little gifts.
I have actually never been to more than two Simbang Gabi masses, but the tradition is nevertheless important to me: my parents credit my existence to that devotion. My family is very religious, and after five years of waiting for a child, my mom decided to attend simbang gabi for all nine masses. The following February, she found out she was pregnant with me.
We have since celebrated that tradition by making the snacks one usually finds after the masses. My personal favourite is kutsinta, a sticky rice cake, while my mom prefers bibingka, a steamed cheese-and-rice cake.
While we don’t really do much in the way of Filipino traditions, the food we make reminds us of our heritage and gives us a unique way of celebrating our Filipino/American/Canadian holidays. You can find recipes for both kutsinta and puto bumbong very easily on the internet, but I’ve linked two simple ones here. If you try them out, be sure to let me know–I’d love to know what you think!
Categories: life and times of angel