As a non-Catholic, I admit that I'm not exactly up on all the details of the Church's dogma, various saints, feast days, etc., but I still find the information interesting.
When I first learned of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I mistakenly assumed that this feast day celebrated the conception of Jesus. Thankfully, there's always the handy-dandy site Wikipedia to clear up the confusion on pressing questions of faith:
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is, according to Catholic doctrine, the conception of the Virgin Mary without any stain of Original Sin....The doctrine states that, from the first moment of her existence, Mary was preserved by God from Original Sin and filled with the sanctifying grace that would normally come with baptism after birth.
According to Artcyclopedia, "The idea is central to the belief in her absolute perfection and purity as the vessel of Christ's incarnation."
While some will head to church to honor the Virgin Mary through prayer, from a cultural perspective, the most important aspect of the Día de la Virgen lies in the fact that it's the unofficial start of the holiday season and the day when almost all Argentines set up and decorate their Christmas trees. Since my family never trimmed the tree on a pre-determined day, I decided to jump on the Argentine bandwagon, and now I break out the ornaments on the 8th, too. Here's a post about our Christmas tree from last year. [I'll have photos of this year's tree soon.]
The lighting of Necochea's community Christmas tree also takes place today, complete with music by the Banda Municipal and a performance of the "The Nutcracker" starring a local ballet troupe.
Fake trees are the order of the day here in Argentina, with live Christmas trees being extremely difficult to source. Apparently, the local government does offer small pines for sale at Parque Miguel Lillo (the municipal tree nursery is located there), but honestly, I've never really investigated that option. My friend Cherie at tangocherie keeps a small, potted evergreen on her terrace in Buenos Aires to decorate at Christmas.
I'm content with the artificial tree my stepdad gifted us and the collection of ornaments that I brought with me from the United States. Every ornament represents a memory of a Christmas past, and I derive a lot of pleasure from unwrapping them, reminiscing about them, and placing them on the tree.
Do you have a special day to decorate your Christmas tree? Tell me about it in the comments.