September 8: Marymas

Marymas (or the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) celebrates Mary’s birthday. Observed since before the 6th century, her nativity is one of three to be celebrated in the liturgical calendar (the others being Christmas and the feast of St. John the Baptist).

“Mary appeared on the horizon of salvation history before Christ.”

Saint Pope John Paul II, ‘Redemptoris Mater’


Engraving by R. Van Audenaerd
  • Though Mary’s birth (to parents Joachim and Anna) isn’t recorded in the Bible, the story of her nativity appears in the 2nd century apocryphal Book of James (the Protoevangelium of James).
  • The feast of Mary’s nativity was probably derived from the dedication for the 5th century church of St. Mary in Jerusalem (built at her supposed birthplace, and eventually re-dedicated to St. Anne).
  • There are legends of a contemplative who heard sweet music from heaven annually on September 8th; when he inquired about this, an angel told him that heaven was celebrating the nativity of Mary.
  • Pope Sergius I then appointed a feast “to give an opportunity for the religious on earth to join with the angels in this great solemnity” (Hone). Pope Innocent IV added an octave in 1244, and Pope Gregory XI added a vigil in 1370.
  • Marymas, like other Marian feasts, is a harvest feast that celebrates and consecrates fruit, herbs, and other crops. Mary’s Nativity is especially a day for the blessing of seeds, seedlings, & flowers, and to present winter wheat seed for blessing.
  • In Tuscany, it was traditional to gather a vining plant called Pellitory-of-the-Wall (Madonna’s Herb) on the Assumption and hang it on the walls of bedrooms; then, on Marymas, it would be taken down.

It’s Blessed Virgin’s Birthday
The swallows do depart;
Far to the South they fly away,
And sadness fills my heart.
But after snow and ice and rain
They will in March return again.

Joy in the rising of our Orient starre,
That shall bring forth the Sunne that lent her light…”

Robert Southwell (1561-95), “Her Nativity”



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Coming soon!


References cited:

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens. Oxford Companion to the Year. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Hone, William. The Every-Day Book.