• 2022.12.28
  • Nossa Senhora de Conceição
December 8 is Dia da Imaculada Conceição, or Immaculate Conception Day. It is an important holiday in Catholic countries.

According to an 1854 decree, the day commemorates "The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

In other words, this is the day that Mary, the most holy and pure mother who gave birth to a god (Christ), was herself conceived. It is therefore celebrated exactly nine months prior to the day of Mary’s birth.

Mary is also known as Nossa Senhora de Conceição (Our Lady of the Conception), and she is the patron saint of Portugal.
Many surviving European artworks from the 17th century depict Mary. When you see a religious picture of a woman with a star above her head and the moon at her feet in a museum or church, you can be sure that it’s Nossa Senhora de Conceição. This religious symbolism comes from a passage in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. The passage reads, “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” (Revelations 12:1).

You can see restored sculptures of Nossa Senhora de Conceição, but in addition to the features above, most images of Mary in Portuguese churches show her riding on clouds from which the faces of children emerge.





El Greco

People also used to celebrate Mother’s Day on December 8 in Portugal, but the church insisted that Mother’s Day be moved to a different day so that December 8 could be reserved exclusively for Mary, the patron saint of Portugal. Portugal now celebrates Mother’s Day on the first Sunday in May, which is Mary’s month. Still, there are some who consider December 8 to be the original “Mother’s Day.”

December 8 also marks the start of the Christmas season, or the day when Christmas begins in earnest. It’s a time when massive trees and colorful lights festively decorate street corners all over the country. Christmas markets and shopping center sales also begin around this time as stores bustle with customers looking to buy seasonal gifts.

This year, many countries have had to restrict their usual light displays because of the energy crisis stemming from the Ukraine war.
But the lighting of the Christmas lights in Lisbon is always one of the highlights of the Christmas season, so in order to keep up the tradition, they’ve shortened the illumination time, limited the movements of the lights, and replaced every one of the more than 200,000 bulbs with LED technology to create an energy-efficient display. Apparently the city uses some 1,100 pieces of lighting equipment and more than 214 kilometers of lit strings and cords.

They set up a giant Christmas tree in the Praça do Comércio again this year and decorated the areas above the streets with snowflake lights. The tree also has huge Christmas ornaments on it, creating a magical wonderland for the people walking through Lisbon.


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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