Lyon’s Fête des Lumières (fet day loom-e-air), or Festival of Lights, is an annual event that takes place in early December. For 2012, the dates are December 6 through 9. It’s not a Christmas event at all, but the proximity to the other big day adds to the festive feeling.
In 1643, Lyon was hit with the plague. On December 8, the citizens promised to honor Mary if the city were to be spared. In 1850, there was a contest to design a statue of the Virgin destined for the prominent Fourvière hill. Two years later, the unveiling was held on December 8, the date of the Immaculate Conception, according to the Catholic calendar, and the anniversary of the city’s dedication to Mary. To celebrate, the citizens decided to light their windows with candles. The transformed city inspired officials to light the public buildings, too.
Since then, the light displays have grown increasingly sophisticated, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world. Colorful images and short films are projected right onto the buildings in the main square. Yet another reason to visit France in winter. Here’s a link to a great video and to the official site.
Photo Jigsaw puzzle of the Lyon Fête des Lumières