If buenas noche means good night in Spanish, then what does Noche Buena mean? When translated, it means “evening of goodness,” and refers to the eve of Christ’s birth. For Filipinos, however, it also refers to the special meal prepared and eaten with family on Christmas Eve. This practice is steeped in tradition and has been celebrated since the introduction of Christianity, during the Spanish occupation, more than 300 years ago. In spite of its foreign roots, this practice evolved over time; blending past practices with present times, Noche Buena became an entirely Filipino tradition.
To understand Noche Buena, one must first attend mass. In the Philippines, there is the tradition of Simbang Gabi or Evening Mass, which begins on the 16th of December and culminating with the Christmas Eve mass on the 24th known as the Misa de Gallo. All of the masses are usually held between 3 to 5 A.M, except for the Misa de Gallo, which is held at—or close to—midnight. It is believed that those who diligently attend all nine masses will have their prayers granted.