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How Does the World Celebrate the Feast of Mama Mary’s Nativity?

Mama Mary’s birthday is a time for grapes, a boat race, and a shower of flowers!

The Feast of the Nativity (or birth) of the Blessed Virgin Mary falls on September 8—exactly nine months after we mark another milestone in Mary’s life, her Immaculate Conception on December 8. Mary’s birth is also one of three nativities celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church: the other two are Jesus’s birthday on December 25 and St. John the Baptist’s birthday on June 24. (Read: 4 Fun Ways Filipinos Celebrate John the Baptist’s Birthday)

In the Philippines, September 8 is a big deal among Catholics who fondly refer to the Blessed Virgin as their Mama Mary. The day was declared a special working holiday, first on December 27, 2018, through House Bill No. 7856, and then on August 13, 2019, through Republic Act No. 11370

Although it is not a holy day on obligation, September 8 isn’t complete without many Filipinos attending Mass or praying the Holy Rosary in honor of Mama Mary. There are also others who would go on a trip to one of the many shrines in the country that are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin to commemorate her birthday. (Read: Four IG-worthy shrines in the PH that are dedicated to Mama Mary)

While we may very well know how the Philippines celebrates the Nativity of Mary, the rest of the world also has its unique ways of commemorating this joyous occasion. Here are some of them!

France

how-the-world-celebrates-the-feast-of-mama-marys-nativity
A priest blesses a basket of grapes during the inaugural “Blessing of the Grapes” held Sept. 8 on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Photo from Sam Lucero / The Compass)

For folks of this wine-drinking country, September 8 is the day they celebrate Our Lady of the Grapes Harvest. The finest grapes are brought to local churches where they are blessed and placed on the hands of statues of Mary.  

Malta

how-the-world-celebrates-the-feast-of-mama-marys-nativity
Photo from Gozo.News

In these shores, September 8 is known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victories—victories being the operative word. On this day, Maltese soldiers fended off their enemies in not one but three Sieges of Malta—against Ottoman invaders in 1565, the French in 1800, and the German and Italian air forces in 1942. A lively boat race is also organized at the Grand Harbor to commemorate this great day in history. (Read: 3 Miraculous Events in History That Are Attributed to Mama Mary)

Italy

how-the-world-celebrates-the-feast-of-mama-marys-nativity
Photo from Pinterest

In 1738, Bishop Alberico Simonetta introduced the faithful in Milan to an endearing representation of Mary—a wax image of Maria Bambina (Baby Mary) modeled by Sr. Isabela Chiara Formari of the Sisters of the Poor Clares of Todi. A year later, it went to the Capuchin Sisters, and in 1842, was entrusted to the Sisters of Charity at the Ciceri Hospital. The image has been under the care of the Generalate of the Sisters in Via Santa Sofia since 1876. (Read: Happy Birthday, Mama Mary!)

Exposed for veneration every September 8, the Maria Bambina is believed to be behind numerous miracles. In fact, a tiny version of the image is a typical gift given to newlyweds in the country! 

India

how-the-world-celebrates-the-feast-of-mama-marys-nativity
Photo from Mangalorean

In India, September 8 is called a Monti Fest—a time when families gather for lunch (whose menu includes an odd number of vegetarian dishes) to celebrate the bounties of a new harvest. Devotees in the city of Mangaluru would even cap a nine-day novena with more eating, the blessing of grains, and showering a statue of the Baby Mary with flowers. 

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