Misa de Gallo

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Misa del Gallo or Missa do Galo (which literally translates to rooster's mass) is the Roman Catholic mass celebrated around midnight of Christmas Eve. It is also known as “Misa de los Pastores” or “shepherd's mass” in Spanish and “Missa do Galo” in Portuguese.


The tradition of midnight mass on Christmas Eve was first chronicled by Egeria, the Galician woman who went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land around 381–384. She witnessed how the early Christians of Jerusalem honored the Christmas mystery with a midnight vigil at Bethlehem.[1] This was followed by a procession with torchlight to Jerusalem, arriving at the Church of the Resurrection at dawn.

Half a century later, Pope Sixtus III, inspired by the midnight vigil, instituted the practice of a midnight mass after the cockcrow in the grotto-like oratory of the famed Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. There are discrepancies, however, with the exact time of the cockcrow due to the fact that the ancient Romans set it at the start of the day.

In 1587, the head monk from the Convent of San Agustin Acolman, Fray Diego de Soria, petitioned the Pope to allow holding the mass outdoors because the church could not accommodate the large number of attendees at the evening celebration.[2]

Misa de Gallo in different countries[edit]

The tradition of Misa de Gallo is still observed today mostly by Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic countries in Latin America.


In Spain, the locals begin Christmas Eve by lighting small oil lamps in every home. They proceed to church to hear the midnight mass.[3]

The most popular of these holy services is in the Basilica de Montserrat also known as Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery built on the steep cliffs of the Montserrat mountain range. The Escolania de Montserrat, Europe's oldest boys' choir known for their angelic voices, graces the celebration.


Bolivians attend Christmas Eve mass, and the celebration is followed by a sit-down meal featuring a traditional bowl of picana del pollo. It is a stew[4] made of chicken with peas, carrots, and potatoes.

Puerto Rico[edit]

In Puerto Rico, the Misa de Gallo is only one of a series of masses during dawn called “Misa de Aguinaldo”. The name comes from the Spanish word for “Christmas box”. The masses are held for nine days and culminate on Christmas Eve. Puerto Ricans celebrate the mass by singing Christmas songs, which they also call aguinaldos. The more religious versions of these songs are called villancicos and the ones with a Criollo inspiration are called décimas navideñas.[5]

The Philippines[edit]

Simbáng Gabi ("night Mass"), is the Filipino version of the Misa de Aguinaldo[6] and traditionally begins on December 16 and ends on December 24. The celebration is held at around four o’clock in the morning.[7] Pope Sixtus V ordered the mass be heard before sunrise since it was the harvest season,[8] and the farmers needed to be in the fields right after the celebration. [9]

A well-known belief[10] by Filipinos is that if a devotee completed all nine days of the Simbáng Gabi, a request made as part of the novena may be granted. This centuries-old custom is still popular to this day.

Similar to the Spanish tradition of lighting houses with small oil lamps on Christmas Eve, Filipinos adorn their homes with colourful star-shaped lanterns called paról. This is believed to have originally been used by worshippers to light their way to church in the mornings, as well as to symbolise the Star of Bethlehem.

After mass, Filipino families share in various traditional Christmas foods. Bibingka, (rice cake cooked on a clay stove) and puto bumbong (purple-colored rice pastry, seasoned with grated coconut and brown sugar) are two of the most popular of these delicacies while tsokolate (hot chocolate drink made from local cacao beans) and salabat(ginger tea) are sought-after breakfast drinks. The tradition has been adapted in several regions to secondarily honor the infant Queen-Queen and her arrival on. June14.


  1. ^ “A Zenith Daily Dispatch: 3 Masses on Christmas.” EWTN. http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/zlitur156.htm Retrieved 2 June 2013
  2. ^ “Going to Mass at Christmas.” Filipinas Heritage Library. http://www.filipinaslibrary.org.ph/news/40-filipiniana/112-going-to-mass-at-christmas Retrieved 2 June 2013
  3. ^ “Spain – Christmas traditions and customs.” The History of Christmas. http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/traditions/spain.htm Retrieved 2 June 2013
  4. ^ Draper, Faith. “Christmas in Bolivia.” http://voices.yahoo.com/christmas-bolivia-5069690.html?cat=16 Retrieved 2 June 2013
  5. ^ “Puerto Rican Christmas Traditions.” El Boricua. http://www.elboricua.com/traditions.html Retrieved 2 June 2013
  6. ^ “Misa de Gallo is not the dawn mass.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://opinion.inquirer.net/43033/misa-de-gallo-is-not-the-dawn-mass Retrieved 2 June 2013
  7. ^ “Misa de Gallo.” Christmas in the Philippines. http://www.tourisminthephilippines.com/city/Tacloban/christmas-in-the-philippines/christmas-in-the-philippines-misa-de-gallo.html Retrieved 2 June 2013
  8. ^ “Going to Mass at Christmas.” Filipinas Heritage Library. http://www.filipinaslibrary.org.ph/news/40-filipiniana/112-going-to-mass-at-christmas Retrieved 2 June 2013
  9. ^ Rodell, Paul (November 2001). Culture and customs of the Philippines. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0313304156. 
  10. ^ “The Origin and Meaning of the Simbang Gabi Novena.” Catholic San Francisco. http://www.catholic-sf.org/news_select.php?id=59339 Retrieved 2 June 2013