(La Fête des lumières) translates to The Festival of Lights in Lyon, France. It is traditionally a festival for showing thankfulness to the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ on 8th of December every year. This tradition is distinctive to Lyon, which mandates each household to display lit candles outside of their windows to create remarkable lightings all through the streets of Lyon. There are other actions during the 3 day festival, culminating with most important events on the 6th of Dec. of every year. There are 2 major central points of festival shows which are:
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The reason that the festival was founded goes back to the scary time of the plague hitting Lyon in the 17th century. With the disease fears mounting, on September 8, 1643, the civic city councilors (échevins) vowed to pay homage to the Virgin Mary if Lyon’s remaining population was saved from any more plague illness and deaths, and it really did. Therefore, since that year, a march takes place towards the Basilica of Fourvière every year to light candles and offer donations in the name of the Virgin Mary.
The infamous artist Joseph-Hugues Fabisch erected the Virgin’s statue with the sponsorship of many prominent Catholics in Lyon. In 1850 the statue was recognized by the Cardinal de Bonald. The date September 8, 1852 was selected as the installation time with festivities because it was the day in Lyon of the Virgin’s Nativity. Unfortunately, the Saone River flooded Lyon, and everything was forced to stop, which prompted a committee of Lyon’s elders with the Cardinal to decide to postpone the inauguration and festival till 8th Dec. 1852. The notable Catholics suggested every home to light candles for this event, and people did, so since then till today Lyon has set the 8th of every Dec. as the lights festival of Lyon.
Traditions today obligate all people of Lyon to display on their windows candles in glass holders on every 8 Dec. These
candle glasses are available in the markets from every Nov. The Lyon city council on its part organizes professional
light and fire-works performances. Local government statistics show that annually the Lyon Festival of lights attracts
around 3.5 million visitors.
Therefore you can infer why lights are regarded in a very special place in Lyon population’s minds and hearts. This distinct position shines all over Lyon during the festival. The Lyon Festival of Lights is a universally recognized occasion for the extraordinary short-term artistic and colorful light settings that transform Lyon for four nights to a magical exciting place.
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Businesses, especially food shops decided to light up their shop front windows for Christmas and the special 8 Dec. festival, with even races to award the best innovations during the 1960’s period. Later, the Lyon city authorities in a bid to expand the light celebrations, decided in the 1980’s to lighten up more parts of Lyon, especially by enlightening historical sites in the city at night, with pioneering this trend as Lyon became the first European city to implement this idea. With the success of the idea, and the huge positive feedback, the enlightening expanded to cover streets, squares, riverbanks, bridges, and even the Saone river stream itself, with amazing reflections and vibes, that developed Lyon to what is recognized today as the Lyon of lights with its vivid night colors that have no match.
The Festival utilizes the rich and great historical sites in Lyon like the Presqu’île and the Vieux-Lyon in the most artistic and revealing posture that shines rays of color, beauty and importance at the Renaissance facades of the grandiose buildings in this lucky city. The smart artists transform each heritage site to a canvas or a stage for brilliant light, color and laser shows by son et lumière art projects.
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Kindly learn more about the Lyon Festival of Light on the festival's offical website.