It's no surprise that one of the most well-known creation stories begins with the words, "Let there be light." Without light, there would be nothing. And during the darkest days of winter, when it feels like the sun is an urban legend, we all begin to go a little bit mad. Some chase the sun (it's always summer somewhere, after all), but this year we suggest chasing lights. From the top of the Americas in Toronto to deep Down Under in Sydney and everywhere in between, here are the loveliest light festivals to attend in 2017.

Toronto Light Fest

Jan. 27Mar. 12

via Website


For 45 days beginning on January 27, Toronto’s historic Distillery District will be transformed into a village of lights. (Doesn’t that sound enchanting?) The Toronto Light Fest will be the first light festival in the city and will illuminate the dark Canadian sky with installations of every size, type and color. The list of participating artists has yet to be released, but organizers revealed that there will be 14 artists contributing 17 installations in total, including sculptures and interactive installations.

The Distillery District is home to more than 40 Victorian industrial buildings and harkens back to a time of horse-drawn carriages. Add brick-paved streets, thousands of lights and mulled wine, and this is one festival sure to brighten the end of winter.

 

Baltimore Light City

Mar. 31Apr. 8

via Facebook. Photo by What Works Studio


If your only knowledge of Baltimore comes from The Wire, you might have a rather dark impression of it. Broaden your understanding of the Maryland city, which has a thriving art and music scene — and which launched Light City in 2016 as the first large-scale, international light festival in the United States. 

Combining light art, music and innovation, the seven-day Light City festival transforms the entire city by taking that hard-to-see art scene and blowing it up with light displays, video projections on buildings and interactive technologies as well as free concerts at night and activities during the day at Labs@LightCity. 

The most notable transformation is in the historic Inner Harbor, where the the BGE Light Art Walk features more than 50 attractions, including illuminated sculptures, performances and food vendors. 

 

Vivid Sydney

May 26June 17

via Facebook


Ain’t no light fest like the Sydney light fest, 'cause the Sydney light fest is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Okay, that might not be the official tagline for Vivid Sydney, but it’s pretty accurate. This thing is lit.

Since 2009, the light festival has transformed the city and its landmarks into a winter wonderland, drawing millions of people from around the globe for a brilliant visual feast. Like Baltimore’s Light City, Vivid combines light installations, concerts and hundreds of workshops, conversations and seminars on technology, art and other bright ideas. 

The installations vary every year, but some of the most dazzling attractions can be seen on the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Past festival-goers agree that the best parts of Vivid are the immersive installations and the ones a little off the unlit track. In other words, don’t just stick to the massive installations
 branch out.

 

Diwali 

Oct. 1923

Photo by Vinoth Chandar via Flickr


For Hindus the world over, Diwali is one of the happiest days on their spiritual calendar. Also known as the festival of lights, it is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness. While there are plenty of locations around India (and the world) you could visit during Diwali, the “Pink City” of Jaipur is one of the most magical.  

Jaipur got its nickname after Maharaja Ram Singh declared that every building had to be painted pink for a royal visit from the Prince of Wales in 1876. During Diwali, it becomes even rosier as oil lamps from homes, palaces and local markets set the streets aglow.  

If you want to put yourself right in the middle of the festival, try the Johri Bazaar. This bustling market is known for its jewelry and is referred to as the “Las Vegas Strip” during Diwali. Every year there’s a competition for the best-decorated market, and the vendors are fierce competitors. 

For a more spiritual view over the holiday, hike up to Nahargarh Fort on the edge of the Aravalli Hills, where you’ll witness the glittering city in all its 
rose-gold glory. 

 

Fête des Lumières

Dec. 2017, dates TBD

via Facebook. © Ville de Lyon / Fabrice Dimier


In December 1852, after the city of Lyon, France, had already postponed the inauguration of a statue of the Virgin Mary, a terrible storm forced another postponement. But as night fell and the weather improved, residents spontaneously lit candles in their homes and filled the streets with lanterns. Since then, Lyon has celebrated Fête des Lumières every year around December 8, turning the city into a luminous poem. 

Every window and balcony is dressed up with thousands of little lights cocooned in special stained glass, and artists from around the world light up monuments with laser technology. 

In 2016, the festival was scaled back to three days due to security concerns. But the festival went on
 because light always trumps darkness. 

By Eleni Zoe

Jo'burg born, London-educated, Athens-based. Eleni Zoe is a copywriter, daily chai drinker and the curator of Cats & Greece