On December 8th, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of La Inmaculada Concepción de la Virgen María (the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary). This is a dogma proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854 that declares that the Virgin Mary “fue preservada inmune de toda mancha de culpa original desde el primer instante de su concepción” (was preserved immune of all stains of the original sin from the very moment of her conception). The devotion for La Virgen María is enormous in Spanish speaking countries. In Spain el 8 de diciembre is a national holiday called El Día de la Inmaculada (The Day of the Immaculate Virgin), or La Fiesta de La Purísima (The Feast of the Most Pure).
Traditions vary from one comunidad (state) to another, but usually the celebrations have a religious and a social component with una misa solemne (a solemn mass) en honor a la Virgen (in the honor of the Virgin), fuegos artificiales (fireworks), una procesión (a procession) and some other social events. In Valencia, las cofradías de las Hijas de María (the sisterhoods of the Daughters of Mary) will be the protagonists of the celebrations. Each year ten or twelve single young women of around eighteen years old sign up to become members of una cofradía (a sisterhood) devoted to the adoration of the Virgin Mary in a local parish. For one year las clavariesas (the name that these girls receive) will participate in parish activities and they will raise the money to pay for the celebrations of December 8th.
Her outfit is of great importance. Each clavariesa has to wear a black gown and in her head teja y mantilla (a comb holding up a piece of lace, as shown in the image to the right). Spain is nowadays a secularized country where religious festivities are maintained mainly as traditions and cultural treasures. That´s why if you go to mass on a regular Sunday morning, you won’t find eighteen year-old girls and boys. However, their grandmothers or their great aunts will be there, and this will ensure that La Fiesta de la Inmaculada will go on another year.