Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Switzerland: Do workers get a day off?

Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Switzerland: Do workers get a day off?

On December 8, people across Swiss cities and cantons come together to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Here’s what is being celebrated, the history of the event, and whether Immaculate Conception Day is a public holiday in Switzerland.

What is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception?

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Unbefleckte Empfängnis, Fête de l'Immaculée Conception, Festa dell'Immacolata Concezione), or Immaculate Conception Day is a religious holiday celebrated by many Christians, especially followers of Catholicism. Rather than marking the virgin conception and birth of Jesus Christ, the event is designed to celebrate the conception of the Virgin Mary herself.

The mother of Mary, Saint Anne, became pregnant and gave birth to her in the regular biological way. However, it is believed that God intervened during Mary’s conception and birth, meaning that she was absolved of the so-called “original sin.”

In Catholic doctrine, it is believed that all humans are naturally born with original sin, which is why followers are baptised to help eventually enter heaven. Thanks to God’s intervention, Mary was never endowed with original sin, meaning that she remained “immaculate” - hence Immaculate Conception - and soon became destined to give birth to the baby Jesus.

History of Immaculate Conception Day

The first evidence of their being a feast day to celebrate the immaculate conception comes from 5th century Syria - although experts tend to assume that the original celebration was dedicated more to Saint Anne. The feast was regularly celebrated from the 7th century onwards, with more of a focus on Mary.

However, debates over Mary’s preservation from original sin divided Christian sects, which was one of the problems that led to Great Schism between eastern Orthodoxy and western Catholicism in 1054. The celebration then went through a number of revisions, before it was officially declared a holy day for Catholics by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

When is the Feast of Immaculate Conception?

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is held exactly nine months before Mary is said to have been born on September 8, meaning the festival always occurs on December 8.

Is December 8 a public holiday in Switzerland?

Immaculate Conception Day is a public holiday in a number of Swiss cantons, meaning many workers will be able to have the day off. The celebration applies in all of Appenzell Innerrhoden, Fribourg, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, Ticino, Uri, Valais, and Zug.

All local councils and municipalities in Solothurn, with the exception of Bucheggberg, also celebrate the occasion with a holiday. In Aargau, it is only a holiday in Laufenberg, Muri and in the Hellikon, Mumpf, Obermumpf, Schupfart, Stein and Wegstetten districts of Rheinfelden. It is also a day off in a limited number of areas of Graubünden.  

However, it’s important to note that workers in Switzerland are not given a day off in lieu should a public holiday fall on a weekend. While this won’t affect the occasion in 2023 - as the event falls on a Friday - in 2024 December 8 is on a Sunday.

What do people do during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception?

For most who celebrate, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a quiet affair, with most taking the opportunity to visit family or friends, do some shopping for Christmas and attend church. 

Special services are held in the largest churches, which usually include a vigil that lights a baptismal candle in Mary’s honour. These moments are especially poignant in cathedrals, churches and chapels dedicated to the Virgin Mary, such as the Marienkirche in Bern, St. Marien in Basel and the Church of Madonna del Sasso in Canton Ticino.

Immaculate Conception Day in Switzerland

Whatever you find yourself doing on December 8, we hope that your celebrations on Immaculate Conception Day are warm and auspicious. Do you have a tradition that you observe on the day? Let us know in the comments below!

Thumb image credit: godongphoto /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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