7. December 2018

Immaculate Conception Rome: Opening times & events in Rome on the 8th of December

The tradition of Saint Nicolas on the 6th of December as celebrated in many other European countries is unknown in Italy and Rome. However, on the 8th of December Italians celebrate the Immaculate Conception. It is an important national holiday which also marks the beginning of Christmas in Rome and Italy. In this article, you will find out more about the opening hours of shops and attractions and events in Rome on the 8th of December.

Useful information about the Immaculate Conception: December 8 – A holiday in Rome

Rome December 8: What is celebrated in Rome on the 8th of December?

The 8th of December is a national holiday in Rome and Italy. On the 8th of December the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and the procreation of Jesus. An unusual day shortly before Christmas, the birth day of Jesus you might think, but in Catholic belief Mary hadn’t carried her child 9 months. To fit the story of Jesus’ life into the church year, Mary’s pregnancy only lasted 16 days and she gave birth to Jesus on the 24th of December.

Rome Christmas decoration

The 8th of December is also the beginning of Christmas time in Rome. Although some shops, especially in Via dei Condotti, start early with Christmas illuminations, the official start date for Christmas decorations still is the 8th of December. It is also the day that many Christmas markets open.

Events Rome December 8: What to do in Rome on the 8th of December?

On the 8th of December the churches in Rome are at the center of attention, since the Immaculate Conception is a Catholic holiday and so the parishes celebrate this day extensively. If you are in the city center of Rome you will notice many processions. Some carry speakers over which the prayers of the priest are transmitted.

Rome December 8: St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square in Rome on the 8th of December

On the 7th of December in the afternoon, the nativity scene on St. Peter’s Square is being inaugurated. You will be able to visit it the day after that.

Nativity Scene Rome St Peter's

The 8th of December is also the opportunity to see the Head of the Catholic Church in Rome. For the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th of December the Pope is saying the Angelus prayer from a window at St. Peter’s Square at noon. Entry to St. Peter’s Square is free of charge. But if you want to see and hear the prayer live, you should be there some time in advance, since the security check at the entry might take a while. While the Pope is saying the Angelus prayer, St. Peter’s Basilica is closed to visitors. Before and after the Angelus prayer you can visit St. Peter’s as usual. Expect large visitor crowds on this Catholic holiday. I advise you to book tickets for your visit in advance, you can do so here:

Rome December 8: Marian Column and the Spanish Steps in Rome

The largest crowds will be around the Marian column right next to the Spanish Steps. In Italian the Spanish Steps are called Steps of Trinità dei Monti which is the name of the French church on top of the stairway. The square is called the Spanish Square with the Spanish Embassy and the Holy Chair. In front of the embassy is the column with the statue of the Virgin Mary.

Marian Column Christmas Rome

Early in the morning around 7.30 am, it already gets quite interesting. A firefighter climbs up to the statue of the Virgin Mary and puts a floral wreath around her. This looks pretty adventurous and don’t be fooled, it might look easy but it is a long way up there.

Marian Column Rome Flower Wreaths

And even if you do not want to wake up that early there is still plenty to see around the Marian Column during the day. Apart from a small lunch break, processions come to the Marian column all day long. Among them are parishes, the workers of the Roman municipal utilities, the Red Cross, the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, knights and ladies, politicians and representatives of the city of Rome.

Parade Marian Column Rome December 8

At 4 pm, even the Pope comes to the Marian Column to honor the Virgin Mary and to speak a public prayer.

Rome December 8: Opening hours of shops, museums and attractions in Rome on the 8th of December

Shops and department stores in the city center of Rome are open as usual. Though, some smaller shops might be closed. A bit further outside the city center supermarkets and shopping malls are open, whereas small shops are all closed.

Some bars and restaurants which are usually closed on Sundays might also be closed on this holiday. However, the city is usually very crowded on the 8th of December and you will find many places to eat.

Opening hours of Rome museums on December 8

The Vatican Museums in Rome remain closed on the 8th of December. The same applies to the Papal Villa and the gardens in Castel Gandolfo. The Vatican Museums in Rome are also closed on the 9th of December.

But that does not mean that you won’t be able to visit anything in Rome on the 8th of December. Besides the Vatican Museums, most Roman museums are open. You can visit the Colosseum in Rome, the Capitoline Museums, Trajan’s Markets, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Galleria Borghese and other public museums. Don’t forget that many Romans will be on the streets as well sind they do not have to work on holidays, and will want to visit the famous sights and museums.  It is worth booking tickets for attractions and museums in Rome on the 8th of December beforehand to avoid large crowds and waiting lines.

A wholly mass is celebrated at the Pantheon in Rome at 10.30 am. You can only enter the Pantheon during that time if you want to attend the mass. If you want to visit the Pantheon on the 8th of December, you can only do so in the afternoon.

Opening hours of St. Peter’s in Rome on the December 8

St. Peter’s Basilica is open as usual on the 8th of December. You can visit both the basilica and the dome. During mid-day however, the basilica is closed for a short time, while the Pope is saying the Angelus prayer on St. Peter’s Square.

If you are close to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, you can also visit the exhibition of nativity scenes in Via della Conciliazione. It is called 100 presepi al Vaticano and shows 100 different nativity scenes. You can find the entry to the exhibition to your right when you walk up to St. Peter’s. There is also a tourist information point in the building, where you will also find the spectacular multimedia show “Il Giudizio Universale”. The show, created in collaboration with the Vatican Museums, explains the history of the Sistine Chapel and the work of Michelangelo and is a highlight for any visit to Rome!

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