Friday, December 08, 2006


Here in Lyon, we’re looking to the Christmas holiday as sort of a distant milestone to reach. Although I have got the tree up and decorated, I have to say that the Christmas spirit has yet to sweep me up. I have tried to get crafty but honestly it’s been sort of a haul. We see the store windows all gussied up, the little Christmas village set up at place Carnot, but the weather has been so warm it has seemed silly to even wear a sweater. How can we think of Christmas in weather like this? Apparently the weather has never been this warm in December.

In Lyon, the season is kicked off when every family lights candles in a row along all of their windows facing the street. This is a tradition that began in 1852. We stroll out around town in the evening to see the whole city alight. It is a tradition that began with a change in weather, over 150 years ago. On the day originally previewed for a ceremony commemorating the reception of the statue of the Virgin Mary that now sits above the Cathedrale de Fouvière, heavy rains threatened to cancel the event, but suddenly stopped, the skies miraculously clearing. The people of Lyon lit candles along their window sills to give thanks to Mary for the wonderful turn of weather. People began to come out of their houses and everyone walked onto the streets. Soon the entire city was bathed in a warm and mysterious evening glow of candle light and neighbors walked together enjoying the spectacle. Since that time, everyone has lit candles on their windowsills every 8th of December, a homey, family tradition I like.

Lyon’s Fête des Lumières began in 1999 and is now an international festival that fills the whole city with even more light. For the last 5 years, the festival has drawn over 5 million visitors a year, and it gets bigger every year. The exhibits have grown to monstrous proportions. International artists design performance art pieces on a grand scale using sophisticated light and sound systems and the existing architecture and each square in the city is like a contemporary art exhibition. This year some artists have been setting up some cables between the trees on our square. I am anxious to see what they have planned for us. It is fashionable in this festival to blast exceptionally loud cacophonous discordant music designed sweep people up in the effects. Sometimes it is effective and sometimes it gets old as it repeats. It’s true, it is designed to be sort of a mini-show, for people passing by, and if you live on any particular square you have to listen and see the show repetitively late into the night. Hopefully ours will be a quiet one.

While Christmas shopping last night, I happened upon the Place Bellcour, where and enormous plastic bubble has been erected around the statue in the center of the square. I had my pocket camera with me at the time.

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Blogger veronica said...

pas de chance ce temps horrible...superbe photo

10:55 AM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger AnAmericanHousewifeinFrance said...

I live close to Bellecour, so I can sympathize with listening to endless repetitions of discordant music coming from the nearby displays. Have you checked out the light and sound show they have set up for St Nizier? It tells the story of the church.

12:10 PM, December 08, 2006  
Anonymous david said...

Lucy: Those Christmas trees of yours look kinda funny, almost like little celery roots. So French!

2:31 PM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

Great picture of the bubble :) Repetitive holiday music wants me to rip my ears off! lol

3:41 PM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger Mimi said...

I like warm holidays, we have had our share, even in the Upper Midwest. What a lovely bubble!

5:57 PM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger Riana said...

I love that last photo of the covered statue, how beautiful! And the candle lighting tradition is beautiful...

10:03 AM, December 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the same problem in Poland with getting to feel Xmass - it's far too warm and snowless...

But I love your stories on Lyon - I am going to visit it next May so it's nice to be well prepared:)

10:08 AM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Chere veronique, merci pour le commentaire!

Dear friend who lives near bellecour - lets meet soon!

Dear David, I am glad you enjoyed the arbres de noel. I was going for the French culinary look. I think it was successful.

Jeff, all was quiet until about 1Am when 15 kids playing extraordinary marching band music and their dnacing groupies came and decided to play for an hour in front of my house. It was amazing music though.

Mimi, always making the best of everything. I admit I like them no matter what the weather.

Riana - thanks for your comment! The candles were beautiful after all.

Gagatka, preparing in advance is always a good plan. I hope you enjoy your trip to Lyon.

11:35 AM, December 09, 2006  
Anonymous ChrisLate said...

M. Vanel:

Thanks for the photos and the insider's view of the Fete. From across the ocean, it really does seem like a fantasy that one must experience at least was warm in Boston but the chill hit -- hard -- yesterday, so enjoy while you can.



5:05 PM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger christine said...

Your little cleriac "christmas trees" are beautiful. Do you grow them yourself?
I love the story of the lighting candles tradition.

12:56 AM, December 12, 2006  
Blogger Jann said...

Enjoyed your post about the candle lighting tradition-how wonderful that the weather cooperated for the festival!

4:03 AM, December 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grrr - I hate spammmers like that one.
Just to let you know, I've been reading your blog for months and enjoy it so much. I've taken the liberty of nominating you for two catagories in the 2006 Food Blog Awards - Best Food Blog City, and Best Food Blog Photography.

2:40 AM, December 15, 2006  
Blogger Katie said...

That sounds wonderful! I love seeing and learning about these old (and still current) traditions

3:50 AM, December 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your posts have been such a welcome diversion, an earthy oasis in the foodblogosphere--I miss my weekly read more than I thought I might! Cheers to you and yours for a lovely holiday season. Robin

6:00 PM, December 19, 2006  
Anonymous Kimberly said...

I have to add my two-cents worth here too .... I miss your posts .... I have learned so much from your blog (your post on stock and demi-glace is absolutely fantastic, followed it to the letter and it turned out perfect)that I am having withdrawal symptoms here. Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Looking forward to your 2007 posts. Kimberly

3:34 PM, December 20, 2006  
Blogger s'kat said...

What beautiful pictures! As for the holiday spirit, well, it's now or never!

5:32 PM, December 20, 2006  
Blogger franchini said...

I like the pink bauble and its reflection. Hope the celebration party you were preparing for Loic's colleagues was a success. Please post again soon.

11:06 AM, December 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have such a beautiful blog! The Fête des Lumières must be so beautiful. I hope you enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!

8:53 PM, December 23, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks everyone!

3:41 PM, January 05, 2007  
Anonymous Cookie said...

Lucy, I haven't even begun to explore your beautiful pages of photos or read all your stories. Having found this site I look forward to it very much. I wanted to know if you had any suggestion as to what to do with leftover shrimp quenelle. I have heard quenelles are a Lyonnaise specialty...

8:58 PM, January 13, 2007  

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