Last week, I wrote that Christmas had been canceled. So, we decided to venture out and see if we could find the Christmas spirit in Lyon. Here’s what we found.
On Saturday, Jordan and I went to go pick up a package. As you know, it’s relatively difficult for us to receive packages in Lyon. The package was delivered to a nearby florist shop in the heart of the city. We decided to take a long walk to the shop to pick up the package. After all, we have to take advantage of our three hours of time allowed outside! Along the way, I suggested that we go to see the grand Christmas tree located at Hôtel-Dieu.
As we were walking there, a caravan of police cars came from all sides of the pedestrian square. Hundreds of police were surrounding the area. A helicopter was flying overhead. Police erected physical barricades on the side streets. We had no idea what was happening, but we knew we didn’t want to be there.
All of a sudden, we started to hear loud music. It wasn’t upbeat music; it was eerie. The music sounded like an anthem played in Russia or North Korea. We learned that it was a peaceful protest. However, the police were prepared for the march to take a turn for the worse.
We hadn’t planned on getting caught up in the excitement. I read about a protest in Lyon against a new security law but saw that the location was nowhere near where we were going. I didn’t think that the protest would actually be a march that would end in Place Bellecour, the largest pedestrian square in Europe! The police barricaded the street with the flower shop. We could see the store, but could not get there. The police directed us to leave the city center and directed everyone along the Rhone river. We walked an extra two miles and were able to circle back behind the police barricade to go to the flower shop. It was good we got out of there when we did, package in hand. We later read on the news that some protesters turned unruly, and police had to use water cannons and tear gas.
Excitement aside, we were surprised to see that there was plenty of Christmas spirit in Lyon! We just had to search for it. Check out for yourself below!
On Tuesday, December 8, we experienced a new tradition in Lyon. The tradition dates back to 1643. During this time, the plague was impacting many European cities. If the plague spared the city of Lyon, residents promised to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary. And once the epidemic started to subside, the city of Lyon did just that.
In 1852, the city decided to erect a gold statue of Mary on one of the highest points in the city. The original erection date was September 8. Unfortunately, floods stopped the event from happening. The date was rescheduled for December 8, and the rest is history. Since 1852, residents light candles in the windows of their homes to pay tribute to Mary on this day.
This year, the candles had a double meaning. The city asked the residents of Lyon to light candles as a sign of solidarity. Lyon also lit 20,000 candles as a homage to the healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
We decided to participate in the event and purchased small candles from the grocery store. Jordan set them on our balcony and secured them with duct tape, but we had not thought the plan through. As soon as Jordan lit the candles, the wind immediately blew the flame out! We had not thought of purchasing holders for the candles! So, we had to improvise. We brought the coffee table on the balcony inside and put it against the window. We then spaced out the candles and lit them so that the wind would not be a factor.
Around this time, we started hearing loud noises coming from outside. We thought they might be fireworks but didn’t see anything. We chalked it up to just being a train nearby. The next day, we read that an unauthorized group had coordinated setting fireworks off throughout Lyon’s entire city at the same time. The government was pretty mad about it and opened an investigation. It turns out that fans of the local soccer team, Olympique Lyonnais, had coordinated the effort.
Jordan and I will be celebrating our second wedding anniversary this Tuesday, December 15. We will be celebrating by getting COVID tests together (we are not symptomatic), drinking champagne, and hopefully eating a fancy meal of chicken wings! A negative test will allow us to travel for Christmas, so we may not stay in Lyon after all. Stay tuned next week to see where we are (hopefully) heading!
*As a note, I will be switching our weekly post from Fridays to Sundays. I’m now busy working full-time! 🙂