Lyon & la Fête des Lumières

Lyon, FRANCE // December 8th, 2010

December in Lyon is absolutely magical. Each December, the city of Lyon is transformed as it plays host to the Fête des Lumières, or Festival of Lights (last year, it took place between the 8th and 11th of December). The origins of this Festival date all the way back to the year 1643 when the city was hit hard by the Bubonic plague. Popular belief maintains that city officials promised to honour Mother Mary if she would save the city and its citizens the pains of the Black Death. The city was spared, and as promised, the city organized a procession to the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière where candles were lit in honour of the Virgin Mother. This day came to be remembered as the day in which Lyon was consecrated to Mother Mary. In 1850, a competition was held to design a statue of the Virgin Mary that would sit atop the Fourvière hill. The inauguration of this statue was to take place on September 8th, 1852, but in August of that year, the Saône River overflowed, and the site where the statue was to be located was flooded. The event was therefore postponed to December 8th, the day of the Immaculate Conception. All were ready for the festivities that were to take place: fireworks were ready to be launched, a marching band was organized, and the residents of Lyon had bought candles to illuminate their homes. Then, on the day of the event, news came that a violent storm was on its way and authorities decided to postpone all festivities once again. Miraculously, the skies cleared, and that evening, residents lit candles in their windows and descended upon the streets of Lyon making their way to the statue and to the Basilica of Notre-Dame where people sang praise to Mary all night long. This celebration became an annual event, and today, almost 160 years later, residents continue to place candles or lumignons in their windows every 8th of December as a symbol of gratitude, while thousands of people walk the streets of Lyon and participate in the city organized light show. I was one of the thousands gathered on the streets of Lyon on the night of December 8th 2010, and it is a night I will forever remember. Words are not enough to describe that night, so I have selected a few photographs to showcase the evening.

A map of the different light displays

Giant desk lamps on the Rue de la République

The Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière; Thank you Mary

Holographic animation at Place de la République

Fountain on the Place des Jacobins

Origami cranes on the Rue de la République

Table lamp at Place Béraudier - Parvis de la Gare Part-Dieu


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