The earliest feasts that relate to Mary grew out of the cycle of feasts that celebrated the Nativity of Jesus. Given that according to the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22-40), forty days after the birth of Jesus, along with the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple Mary was purified according to Jewish customs, the Feast of the Purification began to be celebrated by the 5th century, and became the "Feast of Simeon" in Byzantium.
Village decorations during the Feast of the Assumption in Għaxaq, Malta.
In the 7th and 8th centuries four more Marian feasts were established in the Eastern Church. In the Western Church a feast dedicated to Mary, just before Christmas was celebrated in the Churches of Milan and Ravenna in Italy in the 7th century. The four Roman Marian feasts of Purification, Annunciation, Assumption and Nativity of Mary were gradually and sporadically introduced into England by the 11th century.
Over time, the number and nature of feasts (and the associated Titles of Mary) and the venerative practices that accompany them have varied a great deal among diverse Christian traditions. Overall, there are significantly more titles, feasts and venerative Marian practices among Roman Catholics than any other Christians traditions. Some such feasts relate to specific events, e.g. the Feast of Our Lady of Victory was based on the 1571 victory of the Papal States in the Battle of Lepanto.
Differences in feasts may also originate from doctrinal issues – the Feast of the Assumption is such an example. Given that there is no agreement among all Christians on the circumstances of the death, Dormition or Assumption of Mary, the feast of assumption is celebrated among some denominations and not others. While the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, some Eastern Catholics celebrate it as Dormition of the Theotokos, and may do so on August 28, if they follow the Julian calendar. The Eastern Orthodox also celebrate it as the Dormition of the Theotokos, one of their 12 Great Feasts. Protestants do not celebrate this, or any other Marian feasts.
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Photo taken in Penzance, Cornwall, UK
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