September 8 marks the Nativity (or Birth) of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a date commemorated by Catholics and devotees of the mother of Christ as early as the sixth century. In the General Roman Calendar and other liturgical calendars, the date falls nine months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.
As significant as Mary is to the Catholic faith, the only mention of her birth appears in the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal (that is, text with no known author or uncertain origin) circa second century AD. It tells how Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, were unable to conceive for a long tome, and how constant prayers and unwavering devotion blessed them with a child–– one who “shall be spoken of in all the world.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Want to know how the devotees of Mama Mary celebrate her birthday? My Pope scours the globe!
In the Philippines, September 8 was declared a special working holiday. Filipinos celebrate the feast of this most holy of women by attending Mass, reciting the Holy Rosary, wearing the Marian color of blue, or throwing a simple but meaningful party with family and friends in her honor.
The French call September 8 “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest.” On this day, winegrowers pick the best grapes from their vineyards and present them to the church. There, they are blessed and bunches of grapes are placed in the hands of Mary’s statue.
September 8 is called in Austria as Almabtrieb. In this event, herders lead cattle, sheep, and horses from the hills where they graze all summer to the valleys in preparation for winter. The procession, which is done entirely by foot, is a festive one that sees animals bedecked in colorful headdresses. Some communities also give out milk and leftovers to the poor.
Locals in Goa, India, refer to the feast of Mary’s birth as “Monti Fest.” On this day, families celebrate the blessing of a new harvest with a bountiful lunch. On the other hand, Mangalore––in the Indian state of Karnataka––culminates a nine-day novena with a feast and the blessing of grains. Revelers also shower a statue of the baby Mary with flowers.
Italians have been marking Mary’s birthday since the 1800s––when Bishop Alberico Simonetta brought a wax statue of the Maria Bambina (baby Mary) to Milan in 1738.
This country found in the central Mediterranean commemorates two important occasions on September 8: Mary’s nativity and Victory Day. The latter is a reference to the victorious endings of the Sieges of Malta in 1565, 1800, and 1942. Otherwise known as otto settembre, the national holiday is highlighted by a traditional boat race organized in the Grand Harbour.
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