Tuesday, January 1, 2008

La Salette Shrine Festival of Lights

Happy New Year! We rang in the New Year last night with a visit to the Festival of Lights at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro. (The Missionaries of La Salette were founded in 1852, six years after an apparition of Mary appeared with a message of reconciliation to two shepherd children in the small French hamlet of La Salette.)

For more than 50 years, the shrine has hosted this traditional Christmas light show. More than 400,000 lights illuminate the grounds of the shrine, and the work of putting the lights up starts around Labor Day. Giant white snowflakes hang from the trees along with colored stars and bells. On one side of the shrine, lights surround the frozen Rosary Pond (which has the largest rosary I've ever seen--the string of beads looks like one of those floating lanemarkers separating the kiddie area from the adult area in a swimming pool). There's a large manger scene and a gingerbread house. It's pretty impressive being in the midst of the lights, but it's even more amazing when you take in the entire scene from the roadway in front of the shrine.

About a half million people come to see the lights every year. The Festival of Lights runs from Thanksgiving through New Years. The lights are turned on at 5 PM and go off at 9 PM. We got there around 5:30 PM and crowds weren't a problem. That's probably because most visitors come in the first few days and in the weekends leading up to Christmas. So if you want to avoid the throngs, going by our experience, visit after Christmas.

There is a cafeteria at the shrine and little huts selling hot cider and hot chocolate. You can even buy some of the shrine's hot chocolate mix, which is called "Holy Grounds." (And no, I"m not making that up. Not sure if that's the Vatican house blend.)

Parking and admission are free, although donations are welcome. We got a little lost getting there, so it's definitely worth printing up a map of the area. The shrine's probably a 45-minute drive from Boston.

No comments: