It is an important tradition for many people from Lyon and if you are lucky enough to visit Lyon during the festival, the memory of it will always stay with you!
The “Fête des Lumières” – Festival of Lights in English – is one of the biggest local events. It takes place every year in Lyon to express gratitude towards the Virgin Mary The first festival took place on the 8th of December 1852 but was really different from what it is nowadays. The story of how the first festival happened is really unique and original. Every September 8 – on the anniversary of the Nativity of Mary – the inhabitants used to thank her for saving the city from plague by a procession from the Cathedral of Saint-Jean to the Chapel of Saint-Thomas, then to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere after its erection. In 1852, it was decided to inaugurate the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the Fourviere Hill on the same day. However, it did not go as planned because of meteorological reasons. The river Saône was in spate and the inauguration got postponed to the 8th of December. However, on that day, a storm struck the city and the authority made the decision to cancel it once again. A few hours later as night fell and the rain stopped, the people of Lyon who were waiting for this moment for three long months decided to light up their windows with lumignons – a type of candle – and celebrated all over the city. The new tradition to light up the whole city on that day was born and remains up to now.
Nowadays, around the 8th of December and for four continuous days, the people of Lyon light lumignons at their windows and visual and interactive shows light up the whole city. Each year, the facades of Lyon’s most iconic monuments are the centre of amazing light and sound showcases. During four evenings, the squares, building, parks of the city display light shows to commemorate in the initiative of December 8, 1852. Each year over 1,7 million visitors including 100,000 people coming from abroad come to Lyon to enjoy this unique festival.