Celebrations and festivals around the world are lighting up the nighttime skies this time of year. Oil lamps brightened the night in India to symbolize the light that offers protection from spiritual darkness during the five-day Diwali celebration. This festival is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians.

Many light festivals across the world have illuminated our surroundings for many years. For many cultures, they signify more than just dispelling darkness. Before the discovery of electricity, lighting lamps or lanterns was a significant part of celebrations. In fact, some festivals are known as festivals of lights. Here’s a look at several notable celebrations around the world. 


This festival in France takes place on Dec. 8 every year to show gratitude toward Mary, mother of Jesus. Much like Diwali, every house places candles outside windows. Lasting four days, the Festival of Lights dates back to Dec. 8, 1852, when the residents of Lyon placed candles in colored glasses on their window sills to celebrate the installation of a statue of the Virgin Mary on the Fourvière Hill. Entire districts of the city were lit up, transforming the facades of buildings into a light show. To commemorate this event, on the days surrounding Dec. 8 every year, the people of Lyon celebrate the lighting of their city, showcasing its living heritage. Light, symbolising the renewed identity of the city, takes visitors on a journey through a poetic world, filled with magic and dreams.


Winter illuminations around Christmas and the  New Year have become a popular attraction in cities across Japan. Illuminations are typically displayed between November and December, but some run longer, starting as early as October and running until Valentine’s Day or even into spring. Among Japan’s first and most spectacular light shows is Kobe‘s Luminarie, an Italian- designed light festival that was first held as a memorial to the victims of the disastrous Kobe earthquake in 1995.


A festival celebrated by Jews all over the world, it is observed for a period of eight nights and days anywhere between the end of November and December. The weeklong Jewish holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the celebration involves lighting the nine-branched menorah (candelabrum). It is lit after sundown with the number of lights increasing by one each evening. 


Each November, Loi Krathong announces the end of the rains and the arrival of a bright atmosphere. As the festival approaches, streets are adorned with overhung illuminated lanterns. Boats, each decorated beautifully, are found on the water. Streets and alleys buzz with happy locals and travelers, everyone on the same page, ready to welcome the festival with open arms. Celebrated in Thailand, Laos and other countries, a powerful union of water and lights makes this festival a momentous time for every gazer. The Thais honor the Goddess of water and pay respect to the Buddha. 


The Lantern Festival was brought to Taiwan in the early 19th century. Every year at the beginning of the spring planting season, people would release “sky lanterns” into the air as a prayer for the coming year. In olden times, marriage was for the purpose of “adding a son” and increasing manpower, and people went to the temple to pray for blessings and released sky lanterns on which they had written things like, “May a son soon be born,” and “May the harvests be bountiful.” Sky lanterns were released to follow the wind, rising up to the ancestors to report that all was well and to pray for blessings. Slowly this evolved to become a local event for the Yuanxiao Festival in the Pingxi area. The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival was voted by the Discovery Channel as the second biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the world, a festival whose sky lanterns carry the prayers and vows of the people.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.