Missa do parto (Childbirth Mass) is one of the religious mass celebrations that takes place in most churches on the Madeira Island. It is a Christmas tradition that starts nine days (novena) before Christmas. Each day of those nine days represents a month of the pregnancy of the Virgin Mary, and it finishes with the midnight mass (Missa do Galo) on 24th December.
The services have to take place before daybreak in recognition that the baby Jesus was born at night. In many locations the neighbors and church visitors all unite celebrating with instruments and singing traditional songs. Madeirans wake up very early in the morning to attend the Missa de Galo as an expression of devotion to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is believed that if an individual completes the nine consecutive days, the act would merit a wish made by the devotee being granted.
Afterwards the Missa do Galo (Rooster’s Mass) takes place around 12:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
It is said that the mass owes its name to the idea that a rooster would have been among the first to witness the birth of Jesus, and thus be the one to announce it.
(Photo by padre José Luís Rodrigues)