8th December - Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Written by Anne Newman 7th January 2020

Christmas in Ireland goes on for almost a month, starting on the 8th December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and finishing on the 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany or Little Christmas as it is known in the West of Ireland.

The popular celebration of this holiday dates back to at least the eighth century and marks the Immaculate Conception - which many may imagine was Mary's conception of Jesus. But in fact, it actually marks the conception of Mary herself. Her mother Saint Anne became pregnant in the usual, biological way, Catholics believe, but the conception was 'immaculate' because God intervened, absolving Mary of original sin, and took place nine months before the Nativity of the Virgin Mary on 8th September.

Traditionally, it’s an important Catholic feast, and many schools in Ireland, particularly rural Ireland, close in recognition and so it became a day rural Ireland came to Dublin to get a start on Christmas shopping. Dubliners have long avoided shopping areas on that day.

In the past, department stores might have offered free train fare if you were heading to shop there. Footfall throughout the capital massively increased, and shopkeepers would go all-out to make several weeks’ worth of sales in a single day. The event changed the entire social feel of the city. Today, this still exists to a lesser extent, but most of all, it’s the peak of an already busy pre-Christmas rush; a day of shopping to avoid.

When I worked in the Irish Sugar Company, it was the day that the farmers would call tothe office to collect their cheques they were due for their beet and veg deliveries. We were in trouble if we didn’t have their cheque ready for them.


Anne is sharing a series of events throughout the year - you can find them listed by clicking to the link Other Notable Dates and Festivals.