Now that Diwali is over, we are probably going to sink into “work mode” till New Years’ and Christmas come, but that doesn’t hold true for many parts of the world. Different cultures have their own Festivals of Lights, which make night seem like day. Hindus have Diwali, Jews celebrate Hannukah, light has always acted as a symbol of hope, and happiness and that’s what makes it uniform around the world. People use light for and as celebration.
Here is a list of 5 festivals other than the Hindu festival of Diwali that revolve around light.
Loy Krathong Festival
Where: Thailand, When: November
The festival’s name literally translates to “floating a basket” because it revolves around doing the same, people make decorative floating baskets and float them on the river. The festival falls in November, this year it is going to be held on November 7th, in Chiang Mai.
The festival coincides with Yi Peng festival of launching sky lanterns into the air, so one is found celebrating two festivals at once, the water and the sky is lit up with millions of lanterns. It’s truly a sight to witness, one that won’t escape your memory.
The popularity of this festival has spilled into certain parts of Laos too, and sky lanterns are widely available in many places thanks to the popularity of the festival, people know the festival but not it’s name!
St. Lucia’s Day
Where: Sweden, Where: December
This Scandinavian festival is responsible for ushering in Christmas and is widely celebrated across the region on December 13th, the day believed to be the shortest of the year (Or Winter Solstice), what comes as a surprise is that it isn’t a public holiday as a major festival should be!
St. Lucia’s day is considered a festival of light because it is celebrated in preparation of the long, dark winters yet to come. The eldest daughter of a family dresses up in a white gown with a red sash, wears a crown of 9 candles on her head and then sings festive songs and takes care of her family, this is customary across Scandinavia.
St. Lucia’s candles represent the light that’ll help one through the darkness and is also a reference to the horrible treatment she was subjected to, the fire that couldn’t burn her is symbolised in the candles. It is celebrated in parts of Italy too.
Where: Spain, When: March
The name falla is given to both the sculptures at this festival, and the festival itself. It is widely popular in Valencia, Spain. The festival comprises of many puppets built with firecrackers to be built, be paraded around the city and be set up at a place where they can be set ablaze. This festival hold uncanny similarities to Dussehra, in India.
It is a festival where creative juices flow, the sculptures here have peaked up to five stories, the designers are at liberty to design anything they feel grasps their attention and affects them somehow.
This 5 day celebration in March is unique because it is noisy, and because most of the fireworks start in the afternoon itself! There’s prayers, band performances and then at the ultimate moment on the final day, the burning of the sculpture at town hall.
Image: Diego Moreno Delgado
Festivals of Lights
Where: Lyon, France, When: December
The commemoration of Virgin Mary couldn’t have been brighter than the one in Lyon. It is funny to note that many people in Lyon don’t know why this festival is celebrated, there are many theories behind it, from being spared by the plague to creation of a Basilica, however, the same is beautiful because people are united by the light.
Statistically speaking, 4 million tourists flock to Lyon annually, in December, to see the lights, making it the third most attended festival after Carnaval (Brazil) and Oktoberfest (Germany)
The beauty in this festival lies in the fact that every household and shop is supposed to place candles and artistic pieces of glass on their windowsills to add to the beauty and shed light, while this is small scale activity, the town arranges for special, professional lighting and light shows to be held near the Basilica de Fourviere. It’d give great joy to anyone just walking about in these streets!
Where: China, When: February/March
The best new years’ celebration comes in the form of the Lantern Festival in China. The Chinese New Year celebration (Varying between February and March) lights up the sky, the ground and the seas. The lanterns are red, a Chinese symbol for good fortune and ornate, ranging from designs of animals to the conventional shapes.
The festival is a symbol of letting go of the past too, and people celebrate by cracking riddles on the lantern and by eating gelatinous balls of rice. Again, like the Lyonnaise festival, there are many theories behind this one, ranging from: it was celebrated by uniting lovers, or to pay tribute to a great warrior who died in battle, to even being celebrated to avoid being burnt down by God, looking at the red, he would believe the village is already ablaze! Irrespective of what you believe, or are told. You NEED to witness this.