The winter holiday season is here and all over Italy preparations for the upcoming festivities have started. The official countdown to Christmas is marked by the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary or L'Immacolata Concezione della Beata Vergine Maria celebrated on the 8th of December.
The Immaculate Conception is a dogma of the Catholic Church maintaining that from the moment when the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived in the womb, she was kept free of original sin, so that she was from the start filled with the sanctifying grace normally conferred in baptism.
The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary concerns her mother's conception of her, not Mary's conception of Jesus (the virgin birth of Jesus) nor the perpetual virginity of Mary. Although the belief that Mary was conceived immaculate was widely held since at least Late Antiquity, the doctrine was not dogmatically defined until December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus. It is not formal doctrine except in the Roman Catholic Church. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is, therefore, observed on December 8 in many Catholic countries as a holy day of obligation or patronal feast, and in Italy it is a national public holiday.
The day is marked with celebrations and processions throughout Italy and with most people off from work, it is also the day when many Italians put up Christmas trees and other holiday decorations.
The following is a video of the Immaculate Conception celebrations in Caltabellotta, Sicily: