A traditional celebration

The famous Festival of Lights takes place in Lyon every year on 8th December. The origins of the festival date back to 1643 when Lyon was hit by the plague. The municipal councilors of the time promised to pay a tribute to the Virgin Mary if the city was spared: it was, and ever since there has been a celebration on the 8th of December (feast day of the Immaculate Conception) to give thanks.

A popular festival

Over the years the festival has become increasingly popular and increasingly secular. In the past inhabitants of the city celebrated the event by lighting small candles and placing them on the window ledges outside their homes. Now the event takes place over a four-day period with spectacular illuminations lighting up the facades of the city’s historic and modern buildings and creating incredible artistic displays all across the metropole. It draws huge crowds from all over France and beyond.

A festival with a difference

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic means the festival has had to be canceled. Instead, the city’s residents are being encouraged to return to the traditional form of celebration by lighting their homes with candles, without all the modern razzmatazz or the crowds.  A fresque composed of 20,000 candles will also be created as a tribute to the health workers who have done so much throughout the crisis and people are being encouraged to buy virtual candles with the proceeds being donated to charity.


secular = not religious

window ledge = a small shelf under a window

to draw a crowd = to attract large numbers of people

razzmatazz = noisy and noticeable activity, intended to attract attention

proceeds = the amount of money received from a particular event or activity or when something is sold

To find out more (in French): https://www.lyon.fr/evenement/solidarite/8-decembre