“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.”
After receiving demands from catholic congregations and universities all over the world, Pope Pius IX pronounced these words in one of the largest, nicest and probably most important churches of them all: St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy. It was December 8, 1854.
Standing in front of more than 200 bishops and thousands of followers and other members of the church, Pío Nono emphasized the humbleness, dedication and purity of the Virgin Mary while in every catholic temple of the planet believers celebrated her honor. Just as the pope finished his declaration, thousands of doves were set free and the 300 bells that hide inside the towers of the basilica started ringing at the same time in an overwhelming scenery.
Since then, this day has been celebrated by churches and believers in every corner of the planet as the Day of the Immaculate Conception or Virgin Mary. Furthermore, in some catholic countries it is a holy day of obligation and in others, like Chile or Argentina, it’s also a public holiday. Throughout the whole nation, religious catholics head to church to pray or even go on a pilgrimage and every diocese, sanctuary, parish and chapel throws its particular party to worship the Virgin.
Some of the most special places to go are one of the 80 temples dedicated exclusively to the Immaculate Conception. Among them rise as favorites those who also celebrate that same day their patronal feast, like the archdioceses of the city of Resistencia (Chaco, northeast) or La Plata (Buenos Aires) or the dioceses of Quilmes, Villa María, Concepción, Venado Tuerto, Concordia, Villa de la Concepción del Río Cuarto and San Roque.
Other important sites that get full with followers of the mother of Jesus Christ are the sanctuary of Itatí (Corrientes, northeast), the cathedral of Nuestra Señora del Valle (Catamarca, northwest) and, of course, the beautiful basilica of Our Lady of Luján (Buenos Aires province), patron saint of Argentina, where usually politicians and notorious figures gather around to participate in a public mass.
This date is also the one when most communions take place and, curiously, one of the many theories that lay behind the unofficial beginning of the holidays. December 8th is often the moment all lovers of Christmas wait eagerly for: it’s the day when they set up the tree.
Every Argentine, religious or not, that loves this time of the year because of the cultural, familiar or personal meaning that it has to them highly anticipates the 8th of December to take out the boxes that disappear the rest of the year in the corner of the wardrobe and start decorating. During Christmas in Argentina, the (usually fake) pines arrive to the entrance or living room of every family and are full of tinsels, garlands, angels, stars and any kind of colorful ornament they can find.
Go to church, set up the Christmas tree, hang out with your loved ones or simply enjoy your day by yourself. But if you happen to be in Argentina on the 8th of, you will definitely get to see how a Día de la Virgen is really celebrated.
Written by Irene Valiente