Feast of Mary the Mother of God
This is one of those old feasts with a long history, stretching right back to the earliest days of the Church. In the Eastern rite there was a feast day to celebrate Mary as Mother of God in the 5th century. The feast gradually came to be fixed later in the West.
The date of the modern feast as we know it was only set as January 1st by Pope Paul VI after Vatican II. In explaining why he changed the date of the feast Pope Paul said:
“In the revised arrangement of the Christmas season, we should all turn with one mind to the restored solemnity of the Mother of God. This feast was entered into the calendar in the liturgy of the city of Rome for the first day of January. The purpose of the celebration is to honour the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation and at the same time to sing the praises of the unique dignity thus coming to "the Holy Mother...through whom we have been given the gift of the Author of life." This same solemnity also offers an excellent opportunity to renew the adoration rightfully to be shown to the new born Prince of Peace, as we once again hear the good tidings of great joy and pray to God, through the intercession of the Queen of Peace, for the priceless gift of peace. Because of these considerations and the fact that the octave of Christmas coincides with a day of hope, New Year's Day, we have assigned to it the observance of the World Day of Peace.” (Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, Feb. 2, 1974, no.5).
The Church has also designated this as World Peace day, a day when we are encouraged to pray for peace in all parts of the world. Perhaps Paul in his wisdom realised that praying for peace and celebrating the Prince of Peace was a good way to start the New Year. As we look around us today and see so many wars taking place, we can understand Pope Paul's desire for all of us to pray for peace was not misplaced.