History and development
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
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
The origin of Marian feasts is lost to history. Although there are references to specific Marian feasts introduced into the liturgies in later centuries, there are indications that Christians celebrated Mary very early on. Methodius, a bishop (died 311) from the 3rd and early 4th century, who wrote:
And what shall I conceive, what shall I speak worthy of this day? I am struggling to reach the inaccessible, for the remembrance of this holy virgin far transcends all words of mine. Wherefore, since the greatness of the panegyric required completely puts to shame our limited powers, let us betake ourselves to that hymn which is not beyond our faculties, and boasting in our own unalterable defeat, let us join the rejoicing chorus of Christ’s flock, who are keeping holy-day. ... We keep festival, not according to the vain customs of the Greek mythology; we keep a feast which brings with it no ridiculous or frenzied banqueting of the gods, but which teaches us the wondrous condescension to us men of the awful glory of Him who is God over all....Do thou, therefore, O lover of this festival...
A separate feast for Mary, connected with the "Nativity of Jesus" cycle of feasts, originated in the 5th century, even perhaps before the
First Council of Ephesus of 431. It seems certain that the sermon by
Nestorius (the Archbishop of
Nestorianism rejected the title of
Theotokos) which began the controversy that lead to the council was about a feast for the Virgin Mary.
In the 7th and 8th centuries four more Marian feasts were established in the
Eastern Church. Byzantine
Emperor Maurice selected August 15 as the date of the feast of
Dormition and Assumption. The feast of the
Nativity of Mary was perhaps started in the first half of the 7th century in the Eastern Church. In the
Western Church a feast dedicated to Mary, just before Christmas was celebrated in the Churches of
Ravenna in Italy in the 7th century. The four Roman Marian feasts of
Nativity of Mary were gradually and sporadically introduced into England and by the 11th century were being celebrated there.
Development of feasts
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 differences in feasts 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.
 In his early years,
Martin Luther used to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, but towards the end of his life he stopped celebrating it.
Western Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, some
Eastern Catholics celebrate it as
Dormition of the Mother of God, and may do so on August 28, if they follow the
Julian calendar. The
Eastern Orthodox also celebrate it as the Dormition of the Mother of God, one of their 12
Great Feasts. The
Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the Feast of Dormition not on a fixed date, but on the Sunday nearest August 15. Moreover, the practices apart from doctrinal differences also vary, e.g. for the
Eastern Orthodox the feast is preceded by the 14-day Dormition Fast.
Feasts continue to be developed, e.g. the feast of the
Queenship of Mary was declared in the 1954 in the papal encyclical
Ad Caeli Reginam by pope
 The initial ceremony for this feast involved the crowning of the
Salus Populi Romani icon of the Virgin Mary in Rome by Pius XII as part of a procession in Rome, and is unique to Roman Catholics.
Other differences in feasts relate to specific events that occurred in history. For instance, the Feast of
Our Lady of Victory (later renamed Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary) was based on the 1571 victory of the
Papal States against the
Ottoman Empire in the
Battle of Lepanto, is hence unique to Roman Catholics.