8th December

Mystery Tradition

Festival of Lights, Lyon, France

In the second chapter of our series about Christmas traditions from around the world, Anna Fosse Galtier, one of our junior consultants, has written about the festival of light (Festival des Lumières), a historic tradition from Lyon, the city in France where she grew up.

The origins of the festival date back to 1643 when Lyon was struck by a plague On September 8, 1643, the city councillors promised to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary if the town was spared and released from the plague. Ever since, a solemn procession makes its way to the Basilica of Fourvière on 8 December (See if you can spot it in the picture above!) to light candles and give offerings in the name of Mary. Thus, in part, the event is a commemoration of the day Lyon was consecrated to the Virgin Mary.

Throughout the centuries, it became a tradition that on the 8th, every house places candles along the outsides of all  of its windows and this in turn  produces a spectacular effect throughout the streets.

The event outgrew its religious origins and in its modern form is now organised by the municipality itself. Every year, for 4 days, the entire city lights up and big events are organised across Lyon, all with numerous different activities based on light. Visitors come from all over the world to walk around Lyon's streets to soak up the atmosphere and admire this enchanting tradition.

Anna says:

« The Festival of Lights is probably one of our biggest annual events, alongside Les Nuits Sonores (music festival occurring in May every year across the city). It is absolutely beautiful, you walk around the streets and might come across an illuminated pink tower, then turn around and meet a huge hot air balloon lit up with candles, floating in the night sky.. You can then spend an hour walking along the river which has been filled with floating candles…It is like being Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. However, as it is a major tourist event, Lyon’s streets can get really packed and difficult to navigate. The local trick is to go on the first day of the festivalon the 4th, as the streets are less crowded and the city is still testing it’s lighting systems. Even though it’s quieter, it’s still amazing. Finally, as much as I love the light spectacle, my favourite part are the various street sellers where you can get amazing food and of course, a mulled wine to warm yourself up! »


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