Today is also a public holiday in Spain. Spaniards take their holidays and their vacations and their parties very seriously. The cities and the people know how to stop work and take to the streets to celebrate. I definitely think this is a fascinating part of their culture.
My Spanish professor Antonio said that Spain no longer has an official government religion as it once had the Roman Catholic church, therefore it's a bit of hypocrisy to still publicly celebrate religious celebrations in the form of government holidays.
Today they celebrate the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. I always thought that this holiday celebrated the immaculate conception of Jesus within Mary, but no. The Roman Catholic church believes that Mary herself was also immaculately conceived and was also born without original sin. "In 1854, Pius IX made the infallible statement Ineffabilis Deus: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin."
Either way, just like on December 6th Constitution Day, the general population really has no clue why the day is a holiday, only that they get the day off work.
Also, not believing in the deity of the virgin Mary, this particular holiday is troublesome and heart-breaking to me. While visiting one of the many large ornate and beautifully architectured cathedrals around Madrid, the worst thing I've seen so far was a crown on the head of Mary. Jesus alone is the King of Kings and deserves such honor. He alone was without sin and He alone was born of the Holy Spirit, and He alone died to set men free. None other deserves the glory due Him. En punto.