The Christmas season is my most awaited part of the year. A big part of the excitement is the 9 mornings I spend sacrificing sleep and fighting the chilly air to be able to attend dawn masses. With eyes half-closed and gritting teeth, I sometimes wonder why I put myself through such a challenge. And the reasons quickly flood in. These 9 mornings before Christmas bring gifts much greater than the sacrifices.
1. The gift of a wish granted
Most of those who flock to the dawn masses believe that one is given a wish upon completion of the 9. I don’t really know where the belief came from. As a child, I didn’t bother to ask. I just believed. Throughout the years of completing the masses, I have had some wishes granted and some I am still awaiting answers to. In time, I know they will be granted too. This year, it is unfortunate that I have missed the first one due to a typhoon. I don’t get to have a wish this year but I still tried to attend the others. There are other things I love about the 9 mornings, after all.
2. The gift of tradition upheld
The 9 mornings have been my tickets to the past. As a child, I would attend the masses with my grandma and she’d take me with her after mass when food was provided for the mass goers. Sometimes, I would even help when it was her turn to cook and share food. Those were the best bonding moments we had. So, whenever I get to spend these mornings in my hometown, I go to the same church and seat in the same pew near the choir just to feel my grandma’s presence. I know she is happy I am continuing our little tradition even after her passing.
3. The gift of new traditions
As the years went on, new traditions were started and maintained. One such tradition is the suggested color of the clothes people are to wear to mass. It has been extremely nice and fun seeing most of the church goers seem like minions or seeing even the men wear pink. Another tradition is assigning specific items per day for the offertory. At the end of the nine days, all items from all parishes will be gathered and combined into complete gift baskets to be given to the less fortunate people in the community. More than the fun, these traditions have been a symbol of the solidarity of the community.
4. The gift of Christmas treats
Oh, the Christmas treats! I would never miss these tasty treats that are sold only during the Christmas season and usually during the masses. I would gladly wait in line to be able to bring home and enjoy some bibingka, puto bumbong, and free tea.
5. The gift of Christmas spirit
The more masses you get to attend, the more you feel the Christmas spirit. Day by day, the air gets a little chillier. Day by day, songs get sung a little jollier. Day by day, people get a little merrier. Even the tricycle drivers that brought us to church can’t help but smile, greet us a merry Christmas, and say a cheerful “thank you!”.
6. The gift of being with family
These 9 mornings also mean more time to spend with family. I get to spend these masses with aunts, uncles, cousins, and my extended family, the Catholic community. It has always been a joy to be with loving and faithful people.
7. The gift of reflections
As I hear mass and the lessons of the homily while Christmas day and the year’s end comes nearer, I get to think of the highlights of the year that has passed. I get to be reminded of the things I did right and the things I did wrong. I get to examine my actions compared to my grand plans before the year started. I get to reminisce all the lessons brought about by every experience.
8. The gift of resolutions
As I hear mass and the lessons of the homily while Christmas day and the year’s end comes nearer, I get to think of the changes that I have to make for the coming year. I get to decide to make every experience count. I get to commit to put to good use every precious lesson learned.
9. The gift of reliving the story of Christ’s coming
The best gift of all is being able to relive the story of Christ’s coming. Being reminded of Joseph staying with Mary despite the difficult situation they were in, Mary’s wholehearted “yes” to the Lord’s will, and the Lord’s sending of His only Son means being reminded of the true meaning of Christmas – unconditional love.