This is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In the Irish School calendar it was a holy day which deserved a day off school. As a result it became the traditional day for mothers to bring the kids to town to buy them their Christmas clothes.
In rural Ireland it is often known as the day you went up to Dublin (or nearest large town or city) to do the Christmas shopping.
In these days of online shopping it has lost some of its relevance. The date retains its position in the Irish calendar as marking the start of Christmas activity. For many people it is the day on which you buy your tree or put up your Christmas decorations. Certainly most of the trees and all of the good ones will be gone by next Saturday.
What always confused me was the reason for the day off school. If the “immaculate conception” only happened on Dec 8th then how in holy Halloween was Jesus born on Dec 25th. Of course it is not Jesus who was immaculately conceived on Dec 8th, but rather his mother.
It is a really interesting facet of the Catholic Church that the Messiah could not be born into any old womb. The Christian and subsequently the Catholic church is pretty much a men only club. Anything that smacks of “women stuff” is tainted. Wombs with their nasty habit of sloughing off their linings every month are especially filthy things. Which presented a real difficulty given that Jesus had to be born of a woman.
They solved this problem by creating a magical mystical shield around the womb of Anne, mother of Mary. Although she was conceived from regular dirty old physical sex Mary was nurtured in this sanctified magical mystery womb that was dreamed up by the dirty old gang of geezers who sat on whatever ecumenical council that cobbled together this particular fairy story.
This enabled Mary to become the pure vessel which could carry the birth of Jesus, who was magically implanted into her womb directly by God with no intervention by Joseph who happened to be married to Mary.
It took a lot of hard thought and debate by generations of dirty old geezers to effectively remove any trace of real woman stuff from involvement with the birth of Jesus. You kind of have to ask……what were they so afraid of?