Misa de Gallo

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Misa de Gallo
Type Mass
Classification Roman-Catholic
Other name(s) Shepherd's Mass

Misa del Gallo (Spanish for "rooster's mass", also Misa de los Pastores, "shepherd's mass;" Portuguese: Missa do Galo) is the Roman Catholic name for the Mass celebrated around midnight of Christmas Eve.


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 Catholics of Jerusalem honored the Christmas mystery with a midnight vigil at Bethlehem, based on pagan tradition worshiping the birth of the sun god (Sol Invictus).[1] This was followed by a torchlight procession 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, San 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 and in the Philippines.


In Spain, locals begin Christmas Eve by lighting small oil lamps in every home, then proceed to church to hear Midnight Mass.[3]

The most popular of these holy services is in the Basílica 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.


Simbáng Gabi (Tagalog for "night Mass"), is the Filipino version of the Misa de Gallo (sometimes referred to as Misa de Aguinaldo, "gift mass")[5] and in Zamboangueño Chavacano it is only called as "Misa de Gallo" or "Misa de Aguinaldo" or "Misa de los Pastores", and traditionally begins on December 16 and ends on December 24.[6]

The Mass usually begins at four o’clock in the morning.[7] Pope Sixtus V ordered that Mass be heard before sunrise since it was the harvest season,[2] and the farmers needed to be in the fields right after the celebration.[8] Today, anticipated Simbáng Gabi is available, especially in urban areas. White is the liturgical colour authorised solely for Masses celebrated within the context of the novena; violet is used for any other Masses said during the day, as these are still considered part of the Advent season.

A well-known folk belief among 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.[9]

Similar to the Spanish tradition of lighting small oil lamps on Christmas Eve, Filipinos adorn their homes with paról, which are colourful star-shaped lantern. This is believed to have originally been used by worshippers to light their way to church in the early morning, as well as to symbolise the Star of Bethlehem. Paróls continue to be popular yuletide decorations in the Philippines, as iconic and emblematic as Christmas trees are in the West.

After Mass, Filipinos buy and eat holiday delicacies sold in the churchyard for breakfast. Bibingka, (rice cakes cooked above and below) and puto bumbong (steamed purple rice pastries, seasoned with butter, grated coconut, and brown sugar) are popular, often paired with tsokolate (hot chocolate from local cacao) or salabát (ginger tisane).

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.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “A Zenith Daily Dispatch: 3 Masses on Christmas.” EWTN. http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/zlitur156.htm Retrieved 2 June 2013
  2. ^ a b “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. ^ Lilia Borlongan - Alvarez (December 15, 2013). "Misa de Gallo or Misa de Aguinaldo – What’s the difference?". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved December 24, 2014. 
  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. ^ Rodell, Paul (November 2001). Culture and customs of the Philippines. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0313304156. 
  9. ^ “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
  10. ^ “Puerto Rican Christmas Traditions.” El Boricua. http://www.elboricua.com/traditions.html Retrieved 2 June 2013