If you are in most places in the States, you will see Christmas decorations go up sometimes even on the day of Thanksgiving. In Italy, most people wait until December 8th to start the Christmas decorating and to put up their tree.
What is the Immaculate Conception?
December 8th is a public holiday in Italy to celebrate the the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (L'Immacolata Concezione della Beata Vergine Maria).
A little history about this day:
"The Eastern Christian Church first celebrated a "Feast of the Conception of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God" on December 9, perhaps as early as the 5th century in Syria.
The original title of the feast was more specifically on Saint Anne, terming it "Eullepsis tes hagias kai theoprometoros Annas" ("The Conception of Saint Anne, the ancestress of God"). By the 7th century, the feast was already widely known in the East. However, when the Eastern Church called Mary achrantos ("spotless" or "immaculate"), it did not define exactly what this meant."
How does each region celebrate the Immaculate Conception?
The feast is celebrated throughout Italy in different ways. In Central and Southern Italy there are celebrations with bonfires on December 7th and 8th.
The bonfires could signify different things: some may say the fires are lit to warm the Madonna, others may say it is also to get rid of human sins and to eradicate any negativity that would be remaining in the upcoming year. More importantly, it is a way to gather people to pray together.
More facts about the Immaculate Conception
1. The Immaculate Conception was declared by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus in 1854.
2. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception means that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin and she remained free from all personal sin throughout her life.
3. Various Catholic institutions, including hospitals and schools, were founded in honor of the Immaculate Conception.
4. Mary’s immaculate conception is celebrated by Catholics on December 8th, which is known as the “Feast of the Immaculate Conception.”
5. The Catholic Church also teaches that Jesus was conceived in a similar way and that His mother, Mary, remained free from sin throughout her life.
6. The Immaculate Conception is not to be confused with the Virgin Birth, which proclaims that Jesus’ conception was by the power of God and without a human father.
7. The feast of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation in some countries where Catholicism is practiced.
8. The Immaculate Conception has been depicted in works of art, such as the famous painting by Italian artist Carlo Maratti, known as “The Immaculate Conception with Saints and Angels.”
9. Pope John Paul II declared Mary to be the Mother of the Church in 1997, which further highlights the significance of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
10. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is supported by Scripture, as well as tradition and reason. It is a part of Catholic dogma that all Catholics must believe in order to remain in communion with the Catholic Church.
Here is a video from 8 dicembre 2013 Processione dell'Immacolata Concezione Della Beata Vergine Maria from Figlioli di Montoro (AV) -Avellino in the Campania region of Italy.
Info source: Wikipedia, Swide.
Photography source: Paper Blog: Photographer: Alessandro Castelli. Photographs taken in Syracuse, Sicily.
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