Nativity of Mary

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The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Giotto - Scrovegni - -07- - The Birth of the Virgin.jpg
The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Giotto, in the Scrovegni Chapel
Padua, Italy (c. 1305)
Pure, Sinless, [1] Immaculate
Without Original Sin
Venerated in Malankara syrian churches
Feast September 8 (Universal)
Attributes Birth of Mary, by her mother Saint Anne

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Nativity of Mary, or the Birth of the Virgin Mary, refers to a Christian feast day celebrating the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus.


The modern canon of scripture does not record Mary's birth. The earliest known account of Mary's birth is found in the Protoevangelium of James (5:2), an apocryphal text from the late second century, with her parents known as Saint Anne and Saint Joachim. [2]

In the case of saints, the Church commemorates their date of death, with Saint John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary as the few whose birth dates are commemorated. The reason for this is found in the singular mission each had in salvation history, [3] but traditionally also because these alone were holy in their very birth (for Mary, see Immaculate Conception; John was sanctified in Saint Elizabeth's womb according to the traditional interpretation of Lk 1:15).

Devotion to the innocence of Mary under this Marian title is widely celebrated in many cultures across globe.

The Infant Mary wrapped in swaddling clothes. Museum of Valenzuela City, Philippines . GrandMarianExhibitjf9962 10.JPG
The Infant Mary wrapped in swaddling clothes. Museum of Valenzuela City, Philippines .

The "Protoevangelium of James", which was probably put into its final written form in the early second century, describes Mary's father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. He and his wife Anne were deeply grieved by their childlessness. [4]

Pious accounts place the birthplace of the Virgin Mary in Sepphoris, Israel where a 5th-century basilica is excavated at the site. Some accounts speak of Nazareth and others say it was in a house near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. It is possible that a wealthy man such as Joachim had a home in both Judea and Galilee. [5] However, Charles Souvay, writing in the Catholic Encyclopedia, says that the idea that Joachim possessed large herds and flocks cannot be asserted with certainty, as the sources for this are "...of very doubtful value....". [6]

Feast day

Tradition celebrates the event as a liturgical feast in the General Roman Calendar and in most Anglican liturgical calendars [7] on 8 September, nine months after the solemnity of her Immaculate Conception, celebrated on 8 December. The feast is also included in the Tridentine Calendar for 8 September. This date is also used in the Western Rite Orthodox Church. [8]

The Byzantine Rite Orthodox likewise celebrate the Nativity of the Theotokos on 8 September. [9] The Syriac Orthodox Church, like its closely related sister church, the Byzantine Rite Antiochian Orthodox Church, also celebrates the feast on 8 September. [10] For churches using the old Julian Calendar for liturgical purposes September 8 falls on September 21 of the Gregorian Calendar. In other words, "Old Calendar" Churches, such as the Russian Orthodox Church, still celebrate the Nativity of the Theotokos on the 8th, but the day is actually the 21st according to the everyday calendar used by society at large. [11]

The Armenian Apostolic Church also uses the traditional date of 8 September. Yet the Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate it on May 9 (1 Bashans, EC 1 Ginbot).


12-century German Nativity of Mary with her father, Joachim wearing a Jewish hat Codex St Peter perg 7 10v.jpg
12-century German Nativity of Mary with her father, Joachim wearing a Jewish hat

The earliest document commemorating this feast comes from a hymn written in the sixth century. The feast may have originated somewhere in Syria or Palestine in the beginning of the sixth century, when after the Council of Ephesus, the cult of the Mother of God was greatly intensified, especially in Syria. [12]

The first liturgical commemoration is connected with the sixth century dedication of the Basilica Sanctae Mariae ubi nata est, now called the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem. The original church built, in the fifth century, was a Marian basilica erected on the spot known as the shepherd's pool and thought to have been the home of Mary's parents. [2] In the seventh century, the feast was celebrated by the Byzantines as the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since the story of Mary's Nativity is known only from apocryphal sources, the Latin Church was slower in adopting this festival. [12] At Rome the Feast began to be kept toward the end of the 7th century, brought there by Eastern monks. [3]


The church of Angers in France claims that St. Maurilius instituted this feast at Angers in consequence of a revelation about 430. On the night of 8 September, a man heard the angels singing in heaven, and on asking the reason, they told him they were rejoicing because the Virgin was born on that night; but this tradition is not substantiated by historical proofs. [12]


The winegrowers in France called this feast "Our Lady of the Grape Harvest". The best grapes are brought to the local church to be blessed and then some bunches are attached to the hands of the statue of Mary. A festive meal that includes the new grapes is part of this day. [13]

In Goa, the feast of Mary's Nativity, called the "Monti Fest", is a major family celebration, serving as a thanksgiving festival blessing the harvest of new crops, and observed with a festive lunch centered on the blessed grain of the harvest. [14] In Mangalore it is the feast of Mary's Nativity, called the "Monthi Fest". On this day every Mangalorean eats pulses and vegetables. The priest blesses a branch of grain which is added to food. Before the feast on 8 September there are nine days of novena followed by the throwing of flowers on baby Mary's statue.

In Catholic iconography

Holy card depicting the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. University of Dayton Libraries. Birth of Mary.jpg
Holy card depicting the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. University of Dayton Libraries.
Nativity of Mary, Spain, 17th century. Nativity of mary.jpg
Nativity of Mary, Spain, 17th century.

The scene was frequently depicted in art, as part of cycles of the Life of the Virgin. Medieval depictions of Mary in infancy often include her birth by Saint Anne. In late medieval depictions the setting was often in a wealthy household.

In 1730, devotion to Mary in her first infancy among the Franciscan nuns in Lovere, Italy, where a wax statue of the Santissima Maria Bambina was venerated and later brought to Milan under the care of Sisters of Charity. In Southern France, the devotion penetrated into the bride gift wedding custom of Globe de Marièe, where the baby Mary is placed on the cushion, representing children and fertility as one of the ideal wishes of a newlywed bride.

A similar devotion showcasing the toddler years of Mary began to develop, mainly in former Spanish territories such as Mexico, Guatemala and the Philippines, where the La Niña María is portrayed as a prepubescent girl.

In 19th-century Mexico, the Conceptionists nun Sister Magdalena endorsed a devotion to the infant Virgin, using the Cabeza or head of a cherub angel from a damaged monstrance to create a Santo image. Later, Marian visionary, Rosario Arrevillaga, began a religious order devoted to the same Marian title called the Order of the Slaves of the Immaculate Child.

Pope Benedict XV recognised the Marian image in Senglea, Malta under the title of Maria Bambina honouring the nativity of the Virgin Mary, granting the decree of its canonical coronation on 1 May 1920, subsequently crowned by Archbishop Mauro Caruana on 4 September 1921. The image which once adorned a Catholic galleon was shipwrecked in 1618 near the Dalmatian islands and was rescued to the present town, which also celebrates its feast on September 8. [15]

In the Philippines, pious Catholics adopted the same devotion to the toddler Virgin, dressing her in pastel colours and crowning her with flowers to emphasise her virginity and innocence, as opposed to the traditional diadem reserved for images of adult saints. Similar to Hispanic traditions, candies and cakes are popularly offered in the infant Virgin's honour, emphasizing her honorific title as La Dulce María or the Sweet Mary. On 27 December 2018, the House of Representatives of the Philippines officially approved bill #7856, in honor of the Virgin Mary's birthday for September 8 as a working holiday. On August 13, 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed Republic Act 11370, a law declaring September 8 a special working holiday in the entire country to commemorate the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Though unrelated, certain places with Marian devotion juxtapose the Feast of Mary's birthdate with their own respective localised images such as the following:


Roman Catholic

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral is located in Biloxi, Mississippi. [16] There is also a Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau, Alaska. [17] The Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin Catholic Church in High Hill, Texas is an historic church built in 1906. The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Lorain, Ohio was founded in 1898 to serve the Polish-American community. [18] Nativity of Mary Catholic Church [19] and School [20] is located in Bloomington, Minnesota and is part of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis.

Orthodox Church

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church in Madison, Illinois is part of the Orthodox Church in America Diocese of the Midwest. [21] The Nativity of the Theotokos Monastery in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh, is the first Greek Orthodox women's monastery in America, founded in 1989. [22]

In Islamic scripture

The birth of Mary is narrated in the third sura (chapter) of the Qur'an with references to her father Imran, after whom the chapter is named, as well as her mother, Hannah. Hannah prayed to God to fulfil her desire to have a child [23] and vowed, if her prayer was accepted, that her child (whom she initially thought would be male) would be dedicated to the service of God (a direct parallel to the Old Testament Hannah, whose mothering of the judge and prophet Samuel followed an identical storyline). She prayed for her child to remain protected from Satan (Shayṭān) and Muslim tradition records a hadith , which states that the only children born without the "touch of Satan", were Mary and Jesus. [24]

Our Lady of Victories

On the Maltese Islands, this feast is also referred to as the Feast of Our Lady of Victories (Maltese: Il-Festa tal-Vitorja) owing to its coinciding with several important events in Maltese history. Such is the importance of this feast (both religious and historical), that September 8 is a national holiday referred to by many names, mainly Victory Day, il-Vitorja and il-Bambina (a shortening of Marija Bambina).

See also

Related Research Articles

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Great feasts in the Eastern Orthodox Church

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Our Lady of Sorrows title of Mary, mother of Jesus

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Feast of the Immaculate Conception Christian feast on December 8 and public holiday in some countries

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the solemn celebration of belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It is universally celebrated on December 8, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Mary, which is celebrated on September 8. The Immaculate Conception is one of the most important Marian feasts in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, and is celebrated worldwide.

Hymns to Mary Christian hymn or antiphon focused on the Virgin Mary

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Intercession of the Theotokos protection of Mary as Mother of God

The Intercession of the Theotokos, or the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, is a feast of the Mother of God celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches. The feast celebrates the protection afforded the faithful through the intercessions of the Theotokos. In the Slavic Orthodox Churches it is celebrated as the most important solemnity besides the Twelve Great Feasts and Pascha. The feast is commemorated in Eastern Orthodoxy as a whole, but by no means as fervently as it is in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It is not a part of the ritual traditions of, and therefore is not celebrated by, the Oriental Orthodox Churches or Western Rite Orthodoxy. Yet the feast is perfectly consistent with the theology of these sister churches. It is celebrated on October 14.

Marian devotions external pious practices directed to the person of Mary by members of certain Christian traditions

Marian devotions are external pious practices directed to the person of Mary, mother of Jesus, by members of certain Christian traditions. They are performed in Catholicism, High Church Lutheranism, Anglo-Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, but generally rejected in other Christian denominations.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God Feast day in the Roman Catholic Church

The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God is a feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the aspect of her motherhood of Jesus Christ, whom Christians see as the Lord, Son of God. It is celebrated by the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church on 1 January, the Octave (8th) day of Christmastide. The solemnity is a Holy Day of Obligation in areas that have not abrogated it.

Feast of the Annunciation Slavic folk Christianity

The Feast of the Annunciation, contemporarily the Solemnity of the Annunciation, also known as Lady Day, the Feast of the Incarnation, Conceptio Christi, commemorates the visit of the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he informed her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is celebrated on 25 March each year. In the Roman Catholic Church, when 25 March falls during the Paschal Triduum, it is transferred forward to the first suitable day during Eastertide. In Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism, it is never transferred, even if it falls on Pascha (Easter). The concurrence of these two feasts is called Kyriopascha.

Anglican Marian theology

Anglican Marian theology is the summation of the doctrines and beliefs of Anglicanism concerning Mary, mother of Jesus. As Anglicans believe that Jesus was both human and God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, within the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglican movement, Mary is accorded honour as the theotokos, a Koiné Greek term that means "God-bearer" or "one who gives birth to God".

Titles of Mary designation for Mary, mother of Jesus Christ

Mary is known by many different titles, epithets, invocations and other names.

Mariology branch of theology about Mary the mother of Jesus

Mariology is the theological study of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mariology methodically relates teachings about her to other parts of the faith, such as teachings about Jesus, redemption and grace. Christian Mariology aims to connect scripture, tradition and the teachings of the Church on Mary. In the context of social history, Mariology may be broadly defined as the study of devotion to and thinking about Mary throughout the history of Christianity.

Marian feast days are specific holy days of the liturgical year recognized by Christians as significant Marian days for the celebration of events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her veneration. The number of Marian feasts celebrated, their names can vary among Christian denominations.

Veneration of Mary in the Catholic Church Roman Catholic veneration of Mary

In the Catholic Church, the veneration of Mary, mother of Jesus, encompasses various Marian devotions which include prayer, pious acts, visual arts, poetry, and music devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Popes have encouraged it, while also taking steps to reform some manifestations of it. The Holy See has insisted on the importance of distinguishing "true from false devotion, and authentic doctrine from its deformations by excess or defect". There are significantly more titles, feasts, and venerative Marian practices among Roman Catholics than in other Western Christian traditions. The term hyperdulia indicates the special veneration due to Mary, greater than the ordinary dulia for other saints, but utterly unlike the latria due only to God.

Marian art in the Catholic Church

The Blessed Virgin Mary has been one of the major subjects of Western Art for centuries. Numerous pieces of Marian art in the Catholic Church covering a range of topics have been produced, from masters such as Michelangelo and Botticelli to works made by unknown peasant artisans.

Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an optional memorial celebrated in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church on 12 September. It has been a universal Roman Rite feast since 1684, when Pope Innocent XI included it in the General Roman Calendar to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. It was removed from the Church calendar in the liturgical reform following Vatican II but restored by Pope John Paul II in 2002, along with the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Conception of the Virgin Mary

The Feast of the Conception of the Virgin Mary is the feast name given in the Tridentine Calendar on 8 December. In the present General Roman Calendar, the feast is called the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the holy day was once called the Feast of Conception of Saint Anne.


  1. – Denzinger Stanza # 833 Archived July 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 Roten S.M., Johann G., The History of the Liturgical Celebration of Mary's Birth Archived September 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. 1 2 Valentini, A. "Birth of Mary", Dictionary of Mary, Catholic Book Publishing Company, New York, 1985
  4. "The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary", Catholic News Agency
  5. "Nativity of the Virgin Mary the Theotokos", Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Greenville, South Carolina
  6. Souvay, Charles. "St. Joachim." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 7 September 2017
  7. "Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary", Churchman's Ordo Kalendar,
  9. "Feast of the Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary", The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  10. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 102
  12. 1 2 3 PD-icon.svg  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Holweck, Frederick (1911). "Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . Vol. New York: Robert Appleton. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  13. Weiser S.J., Francis, The Holyday Book
  14. Anup Gonsalves, Antonio. "Indians in Holy Land eager to celebrate Nativity of Mary", Catholic News Agency, 4 September 2014
  15. Mangione, Fabian. "Senglea’s statue of Maria Bambina", Times of Malta, 6 September 2015
  16. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral
  17. Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Juneau, Alaska
  18. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Lorain, Ohio
  19. "Nativity of Mary Catholic Church".
  20. "Nativity of Mary School".
  21. Nativity of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, Madison, Illinois
  23. Quran   3:35
  24. Bukhari, Anbiya, 44; Muslim, Fada'il, trad. 146, 147