Fete des Lumieres: Modern Lyon’s Traditional Festival of Lights

Regarded as the Festival of Lights, Fete des Lumieres illuminates the whole city with diverse kinds of lights broadcasting its heritage to each individual’s eyes. It is certainly one of the most popular Lyon festivals creating a tremendous thrill throughout the city. Celebrated over four days reflecting pure charisma, Fete des Lumieres lives up to its title to transform Lyon into the city of lights.
Fete des Lumieres Festival

(Photo credits: madweb)

The event is the unique in France due to the steep size that involves projection of colorful videos as well as images in different corners across the town. Designers from across the globe partake in the fiesta full filled with music and video effects accompanying the vivid images around the city. The excellent manifestation of the lit city includes parks, buildings, and rivers for experiencing a different look on each of the four days. Of all, the best spectacle is in the city centre.

Origins of Fete des Lumieres

The origins of festival of lights are associated to a Catholic commemoration of the Virgin Mary, to whom the town was dedicated during Middle Ages. Due to the proximity of 25 December, the light decoration makes the non-Lyon natives believe that the festival is linked to Christmas.

Virgin Mary

(Photo credits: don-iannone)

In 1643, the city was struck by plague due to which the municipal councilors promised to revere Mother Mary if Lyon got spared. Since then, a sincere and formal procession makes its way to the Fourvière Basilica to light candles and make offerings to the mother.

In 1852, the old squared bell was rebuilt and decided to crown it with the mother’s new statue overlooking the town on 8th September, the day of nativity of the Virgin. However, floods in August delayed the ceremony until 8th December, the day of Immaculate Conception. On this day, a religious ceremony was held and celebrations featured a great illumination at night. However, the incessant pouring of rain made the authorities to cancel the night celebrations.

Nevertheless, the rain stopped by evening, the joy of which was expressed by spontaneously aligning several little lights on balconies and windowsills as well as lighting the chapel against the night sky. These lights are called ‘des lumignons’ in French that have been collected right since 1852 and are now sold in the city since November each year. They are stained or clear glasses acting as containers for lighting candles.

Fete des Lumieres : The Modern Celebrations

The festival has evolved into a chief attraction for the entire Rhône-Alpes area. The two primary stages of illuminations occur on the Basilica and at des Terreaux. The celebration begins on Place Bellecour from where the lighting is turned on extending to include more than 80 light scenes across the town.

Despite this, surprisingly, the cost of energy for the event is only 0.1% of the annual consumption of street lighting in the city. The fusion of incessant video and lighting effects, creative audio functionalities, and visual arts renders the city in the most spectacular way.

On Place Bellecour, the fountain comes alive with a ballet background. The facade of the St. John cathedral shows 3D animations combining decades of history, while the Rhone and Saone rivers show up giant mirrors and flickering bridges as per the rhythm of waves.

Fete des Lumieres 2014

(Photo credits: Claude Geourjon)

2014 Dates of Fete des Lumieres

5- 8 December

Entry Fee for Fete des Lumieres festival

None

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