Lights are fascinating thing, bringing colour, cheer, and a feeling of safety to many across the world – they delight, dazzle, and mesmerize us, especially when showcased in the sky, or downriver. Those of us in the Western world have likely flirted with fireworks and displays in the sky – on either the 4th of July, or on Guy Fawkes Day, but there are hundreds of festivals around the world that include incredible light shows, with the three below offering boundless beauty:
1. Fête des Lumieres – Lyon, France
The Fête des Lumieres (Festival of Lights) is an annual event held in France, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus – and people show their devotion and gratitude to her by lighting up the dark night with strings of lights and candles. The festival is said to have begun after the city of Lyon was saved from the plague in 1643 by Mary, mother of Jesus. However other sources state it’s due to a statue of the Virgin Mary which was to be inaugurated on the 8th of December 1852 – when a storm rose city officials decided to cancel it, but as the storm cleared later on, the streets filled with people lighting up candles and illuminating the statue, shouting “Vive Marie”, and was held each year. Present day sees the festival begin on the 8th of December and continue for four days, during which millions of visitors descend on Lyon, though the first night is usually the most spectacular one. Some notable buildings to catch, decked out in illuminated splendour, include the Basilica of Fourviere, and Primatiale Saint-Jean.
Above photo credit: manufrakass
2. Obon Festival, Japan
The Obon festival takes place annually in July/August, and is a Buddhist festival similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead and All Hallows Eve (Halloween). It is characterized by families gathering together, cleaning their homes and family shrines, and decorating the memorials and family graveyards with flowers and paper lanterns. Offerings are often left for relatives who have passed on, so expect to smell lots of Senko incense and see plenty of beautiful blooms. On the final day of the festival – the 15th of the month – toro nagashi (floating lanterns) are lit, and sent downstream, with each lantern representing a deceased ancestor. Strange though it may seem to Western culture, this festival is a time of celebration and not sorrow, and as the rivers of Japan fill with lights, the spirits of departed loved ones are guided back to the underworld.
3. Yi Peng Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Held during the full moon of the second month, the Chiang Mai Yi Peng festival is an incredible sight to see. The northern Thai’s create khom loi (sky lanterns) which are made from a variety of materials, such as rice paper, before attaching them to a candle. When lit, the feather-light lanterns are buoyed upwards from the heat of the flame, and the skyline fills with thousands of twinkling lights – which, if you squint at them, you can almost imagine the glow being kindly spirits watching over the city. The ancient Thai capital, Chiang Mai, is the best place to view the Yi Peng festival, as it coincides with the Loi Krathong festival (floating crown festival). This festival is characterised by floating water lanterns and decorative lights hung in the city.
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