On 8 December, many countries including Argentina, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The day is also a holiday in the following regions of Switzerland: Aargau, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Fribourg, Graubünden, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Solothurn, Schwyz, Ticino, Uri, Valais and Zug.
It is a day that celebrates the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin all of her life.
For Roman Catholics, it is observed as a day of obligation with required church attendance.
The Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation whose meaning is often confused.
By the sounds of it, one would think we would celebrate the day Jesus was conceived. On the contrary, it is the day that the Blessed Mother Mary was conceived.
Mary's mother was St. Anne and her father was Joachim. While they are not mentioned in the bible, their names appear in some very early Christian texts. Anne and Joachim had been a childless couple until an angel appeared telling Anne that she would give birth to a child that the world would honour. Anne became a saint as she offered her child to god's service.
This day has been celebrated since at least the eighth century, but the idea that the word immaculate means that Mary was born without original sin divided many theological scholars over the centuries. It wasn't until 1854 that the argument was decided when Pope Pious IX proclaimed this belief to be an essential dogma of the Roman Catholic Church.