Today is an Italian public holiday in celebration of the “Immacolata” - the Immaculate Conception. If you are scratching your head over the maths, fear not. Confusingly this isn’t the conception of the baby Jesus - that’s the feast of the Annunciation celebrated on March 25th. Rather its the conception of Mary, born without original sin.
A holiday of obligation, it is considered by Italians as the start of the holiday season.
Christmas starts here
The Immacolata - or to give it its full name l'Immacolata Concezione della Beata Vergine Maria - marks the start of Christmas as people take advantage of the holiday to decorate their trees and homes.
Immaculate Conception processions usually take place. These are often beautiful and elaborate - the Madonna is revered.
Schools, public offices and banks are closed. There is no postal service. However towns may be busier than normal - most shops open though as the day is also considered the official start of the Christmas shopping season - and it is often the day that Christmas lights are switched on.