Thursday, December 24, 2020

Why is Mass on Dec 24 called "Misa del Gallo"?

Un Gallo (A Rooster)

Among all the religious events that are celebrated during the Christmas season we find the popular "Misa del Gallo" (literally Rooster's Mass), which takes place at midnight on Christmas Eve, December 24, that is to say, just at the beginning of Christmas day.

Most historians and authoritative voices on the liturgical theme point, as the origin of this traditional religious commemoration of the birth of Jesus, to Pope Sixtus III who, in the 5th century, established the custom of celebrating a night vigil mass at midnight on the day of celebration of the Messiah's birth, after the entrance to the new day (Christmas), in the “ad galli cantus” (at the crowing of the rooster). The "ad galli cantus" referred to the moment when the new day begins, according to ancient Roman traditions, at midnight.

But, as not all sources agree with this origin, there are those who place it in an ancient fable that tells that during the birth of Jesus there was a rooster in the stable, which was the first living being witness to such an event and thus be in charge of proclaiming it, first to the mule and the ox, then to the shepherds and their sheep and finally to the people who lived in the surroundings and, therefore, the coming to the world of the Messiah was announced "ad galli cantus", that is to say, by the crowing of the rooster.

Another theory, poorly documented and lacking enough credibility, maintains that the name is due to the fact that, in the past, in some countries the Christmas Eve dinner menu consisted of a roasted rooster! There are also those who assure that the origin of the name of the Mass of the Rooster has its origin in its celebration in the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu in Jerusalem. This church took its name from the evangelical episode that recounted how Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed.

Although it is an ingrained custom to celebrate it at midnight, on some occasions the Mass schedule is adapted to the needs of the community and can be advanced. 

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