On December 8, Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This does not refer to Jesus' conception by the Virgin Mary but to the way Mary herself was conceived. In order to become the mother of the Saviour, Catholics believe Mary was made immune from sin at the moment of her conception.

This holy day is celebrated in many Catholic countries. On the eve of the feast, Guatemalan Catholics burn papier-mache figures of the Devil. This tradition, which began in colonial times, represents getting rid of sin and starting afresh.

immaculate conception
A figure representing the devil is pictured during celebrations of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in Sacatepequez, GuatemalaJohan Ordonez/AFP
immaculate conception
A figure representing the devil is set ablaze during celebrations for the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in GuatemalaJohan Ordonez/AFP
immaculate conception
People wearing devils' horns watch as a figure representing the devil is set ablazeJohan Ordonez/AFP
immaculate conception
A performer dressed as Death sits in a mock coffin in Sacatepequez, GuatemalaJohan Ordonez/AFP
immaculate conception
People disguised as elderly women take part in the dance of 24 devilsJohan Ordonez/AFP

Colombians celebrate Día de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles) on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Believers place candles and lanterns in their windows, and keep a vigil by the graves of their loved ones.

immaculate conception
A boy lights candles in Bogota on the holiday that marks the unofficial start of Christmas in the countryJohn Vizcaino/Reuters
immaculate conception
A man weeps beside the grave of his mother in a cemetery in Cali, ColombiaLuis Robayo/AFP
immaculate conception
A couple stands beside their son's grave, decorated with flowers, lanterns and candlesLuis Robayo/AFP
immaculate conception
A couple keep vigil beside the grave of a relative during celebrations for the Dia de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles) on the eve of the Immaculate Conception in Cali, ColombiaLuis Robayo/AFP

In the western Spanish village of Jarandilla de la Vera, people celebrate the Immaculate Conception by hitting each other with burning brooms.

It is thought that the "Los Escobazos" festival comes from when shepherds came down from the mountains at night to celebrate the Virgin's Conception and would light branches in order to see.

immaculate conception
A reveller is hit by a man with a burning broom during the Los Escobazos festivial in Jarandilla de la Vera, SpainGonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
immaculate conception
People stand around a bonfire in the streetGonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
immaculate conception
A reveller holds a bottle of alcohol as he passes bonfires in Jarandilla de la Vera, Spain.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
immaculate conception
A burning broom is tied to a crucifix at Constitution Square in Jarandilla de la VeraGonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images