How the Feast of Immaculate Conception is celebrated around the world

Immaculate Conception

Celebrated in various ways around the world, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception can be traced back to the mid-19th century, when Pope Pius IX issued an apostolic constitution to the Vatican in 1854. But the actual concept of immaculate conception reaches much farther into history, back to the earliest days of Christianity.

What is the significance of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception?

Not to be confused with the Immaculate Conception of Jesus Christ, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception focuses on the Virgin Mary, and how she conceived without sin.

The day is commemorated on 8 December every year, but what’s most interesting is the ways in which different cultures choose to celebrate it. Some take the day for solemn prayer and introspection, while others host major festivals where people can honour the Virgin Mary through kinship and celebration.

Australia: A time to teach

While not recognised as a public holiday in Australia, it’s widely observed among the Catholic community. Held either on or close to 8 December, Australians attend special services or masses held in honour of the Virgin Mary. Special prayers are made, and many churches choose to combine the event with significant anniversaries or other religious observances.

As the day is close to the holiday break, church-run schools often use the day to teach students about the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, the Immaculate Conception and the importance of Christmas.

Italy: Diverse celebrations

As Catholicism is the major religion in Italy, it’s no wonder the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is taken as a public holiday. The general population, schools and most businesses are given the day off, so many Italians spend the day attending a church mass.

There’s a great contrast in the various country-wide celebrations. From his home in the Vatican, the Pope leads the day’s commemoration by travelling into Rome and witnessing a floral wreath being placed on the Madonna statue in Piazza Mignanelli. For residents and tourists wandering the city, however, they can witness – and even participate in – religious-inspired spectacles that often include jugglers, clowns and street performers.

Mexico: Street festivals and religious exhibitions

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is not recognised as a public holiday in Mexico, but that doesn’t stop the country from celebrating the event in its own unique way.

Across the Central American nation, special masses are held in honour of Mary. However, for one particular city, the day is an annual festivity. Take a trip to San Juan de los Lagos on 8 December and you’ll find yourself swept up in a sea of food stalls, live music, games and street festivals all dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

United Kingdom and the United States: A solemn affair

Similar to Australia, the day is not a public holiday in the United Kingdom, nor the United States. And unlike Mexico and Italy, Catholics in the UK and the US tend to treat the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as a symbolic day to be celebrated within the church community.

The Immaculata is a popular prayer to recite, while hymns such as Immaculate Mary are commonly sung in specially held church services. In the nine days leading up to the feast, many Catholics in the US and UK also choose to recite a novena (a series of prayers).

Honour the day in your own way

Whether you are enjoying a street festival in Rome or attending mass in Sydney, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the perfect time to celebrate the life of the Virgin Mary.


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