In Ireland, December 8th is perhaps best known as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary’s virtuous origins.
As a Holy Day of Obligation, many people traditionally take the day off to attend mass – or in more recent years to do a bit of Christmas shopping.
In fact it’s considered one of the biggest shopping days of the year in Ireland, and officially marks the start of Christmas celebrations across the country.
But in Lyon, France the day is also the peak of what’s known as the Festival of Lights, which takes place between December 6th and 9th every year. It’s still a nod towards the Virgin Mary, but with the added tradition that every house place candles along the outsides of all the windows to produce special effect throughout the city’s streets.
The festival is marked by an abundance of light-related activities, with landmarks illuminated in different colours and light shows taking place across the city.
The origins of the Festival of Lights date to 1643 when Lyon was struck by the plague. At the time, the city’s councillors promised to pay a special tribute to the Virgin Mary if the town was spared. As a result, a solemn procession goes to the Basilica of Fourvière every year to light candles and give offerings in the name of Mary.
Nowadays, every family in Lyon keeps a collection of stained or clear glass in which candles are burnt on windowsills on 8 December.
The city council also produces numerous theatrical and musical performances, with numerous façades lighting up the streets as people walk around on 8 December.
Luminous objects are placed around public squares and around monuments, cathedrals and other areas. Buildings are also illuminated, with projections sound and light projections taking part across the city.
The festival is central to Lyon’s tourist industry, drawing 3 to 4 million people to the city every year.
Check out the video below for a look at some of last year’s light displays!