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Festival of Lights

LYON The Festival of Lights, known as "Fête des Lumières" in French, takes place on December 8 during which the people of Lyon place little candle lamps in their windows in honour of the Virgin Mary.

The origins of the festival date back over 150 years to 1852 when a statue of the Virgin Mary on Fourviere Hill was to be inaugurated. The event had been postponed several times and nearly didn't happen because a ferocious storm broke over the city. But it passed quickly and the people of Lyon spontaneously lit their homes with candles and came out into the streets to celebrate, and thus the Festival of Lights was born.

The people of Lyon continue this visually spectacular tradition to this day. The modern festival is now a four-day event where contemporary light installations illuminate the city attracting thousands of visitors. As well as a time to celebrate, the festival also acts as a forum for communication with other cities in France and around the world where the issue of light in urban planning and town dwelling is discussed.

This uniquely Lyonnaise tradition dictates that every house place candles along the outsides of all the windows to produce a spectacular effect throughout the streets. The festival, which includes other activities based on light, usually lasts 4 days, with the peak of activity occurring on the 8th.

The two main focal points of activity are typically the Basilica of Fourvière which is lit up in different colours, and the Place des Terreaux, which hosts a different light show each year.


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