They will leave you in awe and wonder with a true appreciation of innovative contemporary art.
If there’s one thing each of the world’s greatest festivities have in common is a celebration and appreciation for light. From hundreds of thousands of candle-lit sky lanterns sailing across the dark night sky in Taipei to the world’s largest floating Christmas tree on water in Rio, these light festivals will surely leave you in awe and wonder and with a true appreciation of innovative contemporary art. Here are the top ten light festivals in the world that you need to see!
1. Fête des Lumières – Lyon, France
Though Paris may be known as the City of Light (La Ville-Lumière), the French city of Lyon can certainly give it a good run for its money! Over 70 light installations and fireworks displays are littered throughout the city during Fête des Lumières, with seemingly every building, street, square, park and corner illuminated with colorful light. The centerpiece of the festival is located at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which is seemingly basked with lights of almost every colorful hue. The festival runs from December 7-10, 2017.
2. Diwali – India
One of the biggest Hindu festivals in India is Diwali. For five consecutive days, Hindus from all over India celebrate Diwali, also known as Festivals of Lights, which signifies the spiritual triumph of light over darkness, goodness over evil. Colorful fireworks and diyas (small clay lamps) and candles are placed all around the home—not to mention, millions of lights all over housetops, in front of doors, windowsills, temples, city buildings and more, seemingly leaving the entire country awash in a lovely glow. It’s also customary to exchange gifts with family members and friends, including mithai (sweets) and other dried fruits and nuts. This annual one-day event is set to occur on October 18, 2017.
3. Christmas – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When you think of Rio, you typically think of sandy beaches, surfing and, of course, the world’s biggest street party, Carnival. This city knows how to put on a memorable festival and Christmas in Rio is definitely an experience worth checking out!
Every year, since 1995, cariocas (residents of Rio de Janeiro) gather at the Rodrigo de Frietas Lagoon for the lighting of the world’s largest floating Christmas tree in water. This mammoth tree floats in the middle of the lagoon and stands 280 feet in height (85 meters) and weighs nearly 542 tons (that’s almost 500,000 kilos!). Over 3.1 million lights illuminate the tree and lagoon in beautiful festive colors with new color patterns changing every minute. The lighting ceremony for the tree occurs on December 1 and typically ends January 6.
4. Vivid Festival – Sydney, Australia
Welcome to Vivid Festival, Sydney’s premier winter event. During the festival, the entire city—including iconic landmarks, such as Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge—is awash with beautiful light art that is dazzling to behold. There are over 90 installations and projections throughout the city, produced by some of the world’s leading light artists, not to mention there’s a plethora of musical performances, talks and many other events as well. The festival takes place every year in July, during Australia’s winter season.
5. Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival – Taipei, Taiwan
For a truly unforgettable experience, nothing can quite prepare you for the breathtaking view of several hundreds of thousands of candle-lit paper lanterns floating across the night sky in quiet harmony. Originally the release of lighted lanterns into the night sky is an old tradition that let people from surrounding areas know that the town was safe. Today, Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is an annual event celebrating peace and goodness. Known locally as “Fireworks of the South” or “Sky Lanterns in the North,” tens of thousands of festivalgoers gather each year in early March to write messages of personal wishes and dreams and releasing them into the night sky. Somewhere between an estimated 100,000 and 200,000 paper lanterns are released during the three-day event.
6. Amsterdam Light Festival – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam Light Festival is a wonderful wintertime festival that is simply breathtaking to behold. For a period of 50 days, Amsterdam is awash with beautiful light sculptures, art projections and contemporary art installations featured on display by international artists throughout the city. The focus of the festival is all about sustainability and innovation, along with promoting high tech lighting design and interactive installations. And don’t forget to take a boat ride on Amsterdam’s famous canals to view brilliant artworks displayed all along the walls of the waterways.
7. i Light Marina Bay Festival – Singapore
i light Marina Bay is a unique art festival comprised of several dozen innovative, eco-friendly and sustainable light art installations made from around the world. Each installation uses recycled materials and energy-efficient technologies for lighting. Located on the Marina Bay waterfront in Singapore, the beautiful array of varicolored lights sets the water nicely aglow in a wonderful rainbow-esque color scheme. The sixth annual i Light Marina Bay event is scheduled for next March 2018. Be sure to check out their website for exact dates.
BONUS: While in Singapore, don’t forget to check out Spectra, a terrific light and water show hosted by one of Singapore’s premier resorts, Marina Bay Sands. This 15-minute event consists of beautiful visual arts, lovely orchestral sounds, extravagant lighting effects and, of course, mesmerizing water fountains that dance breathtakingly in the air.
Fun fact: according to Festive Lights at Business Insider, the show uses energy efficient 470-watt light bulbs but with an output similar to a 4000-watt light bulb. This means the show is incredibly cost-efficient to run at only £300, or USD$300, per day to maintain.
8. Festival of Lights – Berlin, Germany
One of Europe’s best light festivals has be the Festival of Lights in Berlin, Germany. Key landmarks throughout Berlin—including the Siegessäule, Reichstag, Tempelhof airport, Berliner Dom and many other city sites—are honored with bright colors and radiant patterns. The festival is produced by a group of artists known as Guardians of Time and led by Austrian artist Manfred Kielnhofer. Artists, garbed as monks, are known to walk throughout the city in neon-lighted costumes. The mystic origins of the festival derive from the belief that humankind has always had protectors from time immemorial and light is seen as a way to express this protection.
9. Light Festival – Ghent, Belgium
If you happen to be in Belgium after New Years, make sure to stay just a bit little longer for the country’s famous and quite luminous Light Festival (Lichtfestival in Flemish). Located in the Flanders city of Ghent, this dazzling festival wraps the entire city in brilliant hues of iridescent colors, including the city’s cathedral with more than 55,000 LEDs. As one of the biggest festivals on the city’s calendar, don’t forget to check out next year’s event, which is scheduled to start on January 30, 2018 and end on February 4, 2018.
10. Medellín Christmas Lighting Festival – Medellín, Colombia
As much as Medellín is world-renowned for its Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) event, the annual Christmas Lighting festival (El Alumbrado in Spanish) of Medellín during Christmas is well worth a visit. The lighting festivities start December 7, which also marks the start of the holidays. Nearly 500,000 miles (over 800,000 kilometers) of light strips and well over 30 million light bulbs are installed ready to set the city beautifully alight. The festival is known for its larger-than-life celebrations, including huge 3D dancing figures on the river, extravagant ornaments draped across every tree canopy, plus a plethora of fireworks on display that’s best experienced from the Medellín River.