8th December - Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Written by Anne Newman 7th January 2020 updated 2023

Colonna dell' Immacolata - Column of the Immaculate Conception in Rome.

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.

Mary is commemorated on major feast days:


The feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated Dec. 8, but Filipinos traditionally start the festivity on the first Sunday of December when hundreds of images of the Virgin Mary are paraded inside the old walled city of Manila.

Organized by the Confradia de la Immaculada Concepcion, the religious procession this year featured some 90 images of the Blessed Mother from different parts of the country in what has been dubbed as the "grand Marian procession." Manila Parade

A military brass marching band accompanies the procession of devotees who are mostly dressed in white as they parade around the old walled city of Intramuros.

A carroza is the carriage,
usually bedecked with flowers and candles,
that carries the image of the Virgin Mary.

Washington, D.C., U.S. - Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

U.S.A. National shrine

Built by generations of faithful American Catholics to honor the patroness of our nation—the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception — the National Shrine is affectionately referred to as America’s Catholic Church.

Home to more than 80 chapels and oratories honoring the Mother of God and representing peoples from every corner of the globe, the National Shrine reflects the ethnic and cultural diversity of the United States and the unity and universality of the Catholic Church.