Rome: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December is a Catholic holy day as well as a national public holiday in Italy.
The fact that it falls on a Tuesday this year means that many people in Italy have taken 7 December off to make a “ponte” (bridge) or four-day weekend.
However one of the main events associated with the day in Rome – the pope’s annual pilgrimage to Piazza Mignanelli – has been cancelled due to the covid-19 crisis.
Pope Francis will not to pay homage to the statue of the Madonna near the Spanish Steps “to avoid all risk of contagion caused by gatherings,” according to a statement from the Vatican press office.
The day is also viewed as the official start of the Christmas shopping season however police have warned that they will be monitoring the flow of crowds in busy shopping streets.
One Roman tradition went ahead is the illumination of the capital’s Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia on the evening of 8 December.
Rome mayor Virginia Raggi switched on the 100,000 led lights on the tree which is financed with around €140,000 of city funds, after being sponsored the last two years by US streaming giant Netflix.
This year’s tree, a 23m-high fir, appears to have already received the seal of approval from Romans even before it is lit up.