Immaculate Conception Day, or ‘Día de la Inmaculada Concepción,’ is a Roman Catholic holiday observed every December 8 to commemorate the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. In Spain, this day is one of two national holidays that fall just a day apart and herald the beginning of the country’s Christmas season. The other important holiday, Constitution Day, falls on December 6 and marks when the new constitution was approved after the Franco regime’s collapse.
History of Immaculate Conception Day
Christians believe Mary was born without original sin, although this notion was not linked to the holiday’s earliest celebrations in the fifth century. The Feast of the Conception of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God, as it was once called, focused on Mary’s mother, Saint Anne. The topic of Mary’s ‘immaculate’ and ‘pure’ conception was highly debated, and the Roman Catholic Church only reached a consensus in 1854, when Pope Pius IX stated it as dogma.
Immaculate Conception Day is celebrated on December 8, exactly nine months before the Nativity of Mary, a commemoration of her birth on September 8. December 8 is also an important date in Spain. On December 7, 1585, when the country was fighting in the Eighty Years’ War, Spanish soldiers fighting in Northern Dutch territory were outnumbered, surrounded by enemy soldiers and two giant rivers, and low on supplies. After retreating to a high point near the town of Emple, a soldier found a painting of Mary while digging a trench near a church. Believing it was a divine sign, the soldiers prayed to Mary for help. The next day, one of the rivers froze, allowing the troops to cross safely and win the battle against enemy forces. This event became famous among the fighters and, eventually, the entire Spanish empire, further cementing Mary’s importance in Spanish culture.
Immaculate Conception Day spread throughout the country during the 16th and 17th centuries, leading to Mary’s designation as patroness of Spain and its territories. Over the years, the celebrations have incorporated modern trends and multicultural traditions. Spaniards attend church services and plan religious activities, such as parades and fairs. The streets are filled with families enjoying Christmas lights and starting their Christmas shopping.
Immaculate Conception Day timeline
King Felipe III enforces a rule inciting all civil and military institutions to defend the concept of Mary’s immaculate conception.
Pope Clement XI designates the day a Holy Day of Obligation, requiring all Catholics to attend a special service.
Pope Pius IX’s apostolic constitution, “Ineffabilis Deus,” defines the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
For the first time, the Bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope, visits the Column of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna to commemorate the day and offer prayers.
Immaculate Conception Day FAQs
What countries celebrate Immaculate Conception?
Countries that observe Immaculate Conception Day include Spain, Uruguay, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., Portugal, and the Philippines.
What is Mother Mary called in Spain?
She is sometimes called ’Our Lady of the Pillar’ or ‘Virgen María.’
Where did the Virgin Mary appear in Spain?
Four young girls from the Spanish village of San Sebastián de Garabandal claimed to have been visited by an apparition of the Virgin Mary between 1961 to 1965. These apparitions have since been disputed by a local bishop and were later said to have been a reaction to natural phenomena rather than any spiritual event.
How to Observe Immaculate Conception Day
Take the day off
Do like the Spaniards do and take some time off work or school to honor Immaculate Conception Day. Sit back, relax, and reflect on Mary’s contributions to the Christian faith.
Honor Christ’s mother
One of the best ways to celebrate Jesus’s mother is by celebrating your own. Surprise her with a home-cooked meal, take her out for the day, or simply sit down for a heart-to-heart chat.
Read about the Virgin Mary
What better way to celebrate the conception of Mary than by learning about one of the most significant Christian figures? Read books, watch movies, and learn about Mary from theologians.
5 Interesting Facts About Catholicism In Spain
Catholics don’t only honor Jesus
Many assume Immaculate Conception Day is about Jesus Christ’s immaculate conception, but the holiday celebrates the Christian belief that Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb without original sin.
Over half of Spain is Catholic
Per a 2018 study, 68.5% of the Spanish population is Catholic, although not everyone attends church regularly.
Spain was introduced to Catholicism early
Catholicism has been present in the region since Roman times but was fully adapted into Spanish culture when Christians took control during the ’Reconquista’ in the eighth century.
Catholicism was the state religion
Catholicism was first declared the official state religion in 1851.
Each region has a patron saint
While Saint James is the patron saint of Spain, every region has a designated patron saint and feast day.
Why Immaculate Conception Day is Important
It’s a significant holiday
Immaculate Conception Day is a significant Catholic holiday, right up there with Nativity Day or Assumption Day. It’s only fitting to pull out all the stops to celebrate this event.
Everyone celebrates it
It’s not just a Spanish holiday. Christian countries and some Protestant churches worldwide celebrate Immaculate Conception Day. Every December 8, a global community of believers honor Mary’s conception.
It’s a family affair
Besides being a religious festival, Immaculate Conception Day allows people in Spain to enjoy time off with their family and friends. The holiday comes just after Constitution Day on December 6, so many take advantage of the break.
Immaculate Conception Day dates