How the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated in Rome

December 8 is a special day in Rome. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the pope leaves the Vatican walls and passes through the streets of the Eternal City to the Spanish Steps. There, he prays before the image of the Virgin Mary.

Last year, Pope Francis shed tears when he prayed for peace in Ukraine.

"Today I wanted to bring you the thanks of the Ukrainian people…of the Ukrainian people, for the peace for which we have asked the Lord for so long," Pope Francis said.

On this day, the pope also takes the opportunity to mingle with the city's residents and tourists. Special images like this one (shown in video) emerge from these encounters.

This year is the 70th anniversary of this tradition on the Immaculate Conception. Firefighters also play a big role in it—every year, at 7 a.m., one of them climbs to the top of this column to place a wreath of flowers in Mary's arms.

On December 8, Pope Francis will also go to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where he will place a golden rose in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary. It is not the first time that a pope has made this gesture—the first to do so was Pope Julius III in 1551.