The Festival of Lights: A Lyonnaise Tradition
The Festival of Lights or le Fête des Lumières, in Lyon, France expresses gratitude toward Mary, mother of Jesus around December 8th of each year. This uniquely Lyonnaise tradition dictates that every house place candles along the outsides of all the windows to produce a spectacular effect throughout the streets. The festival includes other activities based on light and usually lasts four days, with the peak of activity occurring on the 8th.
The origins of the festival date to 1643 when Lyon was struck by plague. On September 8, 1643 the municipal councillors (échevins) promised to pay tribute to Mary if the town was spared. Ever since, a solemn procession makes its way to the Basilica of Fourvière on 8 December (the feast of the Immaculate Conception) to light candles and give offerings in the name of Mary. In part, the event thus commemorates the day Lyon was consecrated to the Virgin Mary.