Lyon’s Fêtes des Lumières kicked off last Wednesday with more than 30 dazzling projections and light installations colouring the city’s historic centre and parks.
One of the largest events on the French tourism calendar, the four-night extravaganza is expected to attract millions of visitors to the city this week in its first edition since the pandemic began.
The origins of the Fêtes des Lumières date back to 1852, when the residents of Lyon lit up their city with candles to thank the Virgin Mary for her protection from the pandemic - not COVID-19, but a cholera outbreak that was sweeping across France in the 19th century.
To inaugurate a golden statue of Mary overlooking Lyon from the top of Fourvière Hill, on December 8, locals lined their windows with thousands of flickering candles. They started a tradition that continues to light up the city every December to this day.
The 2019 edition of the Fêtes des Lumières saw two million people visit Lyon which has a population of just over 500,000. It is the largest annual event held in the French city which usually welcomes about six million visitors per year.
In recent decades, this local tradition has grown into the spectacle and tourist attraction that it is today. Traffic is cut off from the city centre for four nights every December as tourists and locals walk the streets of Lyon to enjoy the light shows and displays.
With the city of Lyon enforcing mask-wearing and following sanitary protocols, the Fêtes des Lumières installations will be on display every night throughout the city until Saturday, December 11.