A guide to Ireland's holy days and holidays to mark the Immaculate Conception

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th). This Catholic holiday recognizes the conception of the Virgin Mary, who was born without stain or original sin. Most Catholic primary schools in the country close in observance.

Aside from the common American holidays, Ireland has a few special holidays of its own. Some of them stem from the Catholic tradition, while some were implemented to keep up with the rest of Europe and commemorate the working people. Holidays in Ireland provide time to remember, time to celebrate and time to relax.

Here's run down on the other holidays observed in Ireland:

New Year’s Day - January 1st

Ring in the New Year and hopefully ring out the hangover. This holiday wasn’t included in the original Holidays (Employees) Act of 1939, but it was later added in by Statutory Instrument in 1974.

St Brigid’s Day - February 1st

This coincides with the beginning of Celtic spring in Ireland. St. Brigid is known as Ireland’s foremost female saint, as well as St. Brigid of Kildare and Mary of the Gaels. As patron saint of cattle and dairy, many farmers ask for her blessing on February 1st. Tradition shows that many Irish bake oatcakes to welcome St. Brigid on her feast day.

St. Patrick’s Day - March 17th

After all, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. What better way to celebrate Ireland’s favorite saint than to close work and indulge in a little revelry? St. Patrick’s Day was first introduced as an official holiday in Ireland in 1903 under the Bank (Holiday) Act of 1903 which was initiated by Irish MP James O’Hara in UK Parliament.

The Easter Weekend

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday & Easter Monday

These are, of course, the highest of holy days in the Catholic religion. Easter Monday extends the weekend, and all schools remained closed for the week. Without a doubt, this is a busy time for travel in Ireland. Good Friday is not technically a public holiday, but all state schools and most businesses close.

Labor Day - First Monday in May

Commonly known as Labor Day or May Day, this holiday was penciled in in 1993 and first observed in 1994.

Bank Holidays -First Mondays in June and August, last in October

These public holidays were added to the calendar after a series of Acts beginning in 1871. 

All Saints Day - November 1st

The day following Halloween is recognized by the Catholic church as a holy day of obligation and celebrates the lives of the saints in heaven. Practicing Catholics are called to attend Mass on this day.

Christmas - December 25th

This day honors the birth of Christ in the Catholic religion. Observance includes festive decorations of lights and trees, attending Mass and family gatherings and meals. And, of course, a visit from Santa Claus is in order for the well-behaved children!

St. Stephen’s Day - December 26th 

This day, following the celebrations of Christmas, is to celebrate the first Christian martyr St. Stephen, who was stoned to death shortly after the Crucifixion. However, the Irish celebrations on this day have little to do with the Saint himself.

Historically, this day was also about “Going on the Wren” or “Hunting the Wren” as ancient Celtic mythology remembers the days following Christmas as when the robin, representative of the new year, killed the wren, representative of the old year.