Immaculate Conception Day (8th December)

Today Portugal celebrates its National public holiday: Immaculate Conception day otherwise known as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Festa da Imaculada Conceição) it is a religious holiday to celebrate the conception of the Virgin Mary, who Catholics believe was born without original sin. Often people confuse it with the day when Jesus 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.

For Portuguese Catholics the day has special significance, as Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) is the patron saint of Portugal. In Portugal it is celebrated with a feast for the Virgin Mary and a mandatory church (mass) service. The main focus of the day for Catholics is to attend a Mass, but in many places there are also processions through the streets, where a statue of Mary is carried.

Banks, post offices, schools and other public services are closed on this day and public transport runs to a reduced timetable. In Portugal the Christmas season traditionally starts today, on December 8th.

I doubt that any large gatherings or group celebrations will take place this year which is a shame. We have a restriction in place over this holiday and we are not allowed to leave our municipal. The good news is that our area of Arganil has been reduced from a Very High risk area to a High risk which means as from Wednesday we only have the night curfew in place and no 1pm weekend curfew which means I can venture out at the weekend to the garden centre.