Iluminações de Natal de Lisboa, Largo Trindade Coelho, 2018

Christmas Lights in Lisbon

Bright and colourful, with classic or surprising shapes, the Christmas lights in Lisbon fill the city with magic and joy!

These luminous ornaments are already a tradition in the main points of the city, from Downtown Lisbon, going along the Avenida da Liberdade until the Marquês de Pombal Square. And of course, in the area of Chiado and of Príncipe Real. Every year more and more spots of the city are decorated and illuminated, just like the Avenidas Novas.

The Christmas lights in Lisbon are getting more sophisticated and stunning each time. They’ve been an attraction for the nationals and the locals for decades but today, they’ve become a reason for the tourists to pick Lisbon to spend this special time of the year in.

The city gains an extraordinary movement with the Christmas markets with its diverse and many times artisanal products; the fairs with attractions for both kids and adults; the shops with decorated shop windows; the frenzy of buying gifts and delicacies for the festive meals; the tourists strolling through the streets and savouring the Lisbon gastronomy

The Christmas Lights of Lisbon add a lot to the liveliness and joy of this festive season.

But how did the tradition of decorating the trees and the streets with lights begin?

Get to know Lisbon’s historic neighbourhoods in a guided tour and discover unmissable places of this magnificent city.

Light, the Universal Symbol of Knowledge

Since remote times that Light has been the universal symbol associated to knowledge, to the superior power, the spiritual illumination, the divinities…

So it was to the civilisations of the Pre-Classical Antiquity, but also to the Ancient Greece. To Plato, Light is associated to the idea of Beauty, of Good and of God. The Christian medieval philosophers developed these ideas that were manifested in art through illuminated manuscripts and the aesthetic of stained glass.

In the Old Testament, Light is life, salvation, happiness. To Christians, Jesus is the Light of the world and it is through love that we walk towards Light. So is God Light in Islam.

The First Christmas Lights

Postcard, Christmas lights, Rossio, 1960’s.
Postcard, Christmas lights, Rossio, 1960’s.
Image courtesy by the collector Luís Bayó Veiga

The duality of Light/Darkness that corresponds to the concepts of Good/Bad is, thus, ancestral. The Christians adapted many of the beliefs and traditions rooted in the pagan peoples to their new reality. The use of light by the peoples of the Northern Europe to celebrate the Winter solstice and to combat darkness and the bad spirits is the origin of the Christmas Lights. The candles and the Christian Christmas lights symbolise the renovation and the light of Jesus.

The act of decorating branches or trees to celebrate the fertility of nature is also prior to Christianism. However, the Christmas tree had its origin in the region of Germany and many believe that it was Martin Luther himself who started this practice. Either way, given the rooted tradition in the peoples of the north, it was in this region of Europe that this practice was diffused.

In the mid-17th century the decoration of Christmas trees started including illumination through wax candles. Although this is a dangerous practice given the high risk of fire, it remained for a long time. Only in the late 19th century were created the first systems of electric illumination with incandescent light bulbs.

Nowadays the use of Christmas lights goes way beyond the traditional tree that decorates our houses. The cities are illuminated with festive and themed decoration of the streets, buildings, urban equipment, trees and commercial establishments.

Christmas Lights in Lisbon

Christmas lights, Rossio, 2018

The Christmas lights in Lisbon began in the mid 1950’s by the initiative of the City Council of Lisbon. The decoration of the main streets, squares and public buildings of the capital continue being of the responsibility of the city council, a practice that is also adopted by companies, promoting themselves or their products and contributing to this tradition that delights and illuminates everyone.

Innovation and the new technologies are quite present in the current festive lights. They are composed by modules that allow varying the combinations, in order to obtain different motifs in the following season. This year in Lisbon 42 streets and avenues have Christmas lights and more than two million LED bulbs are being used, contributing to 80% of energy saving.

Enjoy this magical show!

Happy festivities! 🙂

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Note: Original article published on 12 December 2018.


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