Searching out the best and most garish Christmas light displays had been part of my holiday routine since I was a kid. While the holiday season in Toulouse is festive, we lack both a car and neighbors who believe the best way to recognize the season is to cover their houses in multitudes of blinking lights and animatronic elves and reindeer.
Fortunately, we do have the Gaillac Lantern Festival, which provides a very different kind of holiday light spectacle. We’ve visited Gaillac, the Tarn Department’s third largest city, several times to explore its surrounding wine region. It’s wine and culinary prowess led to a sister city agreement with the Chinese city of Zigong in the province of Sichuan.
Zigong hosts a massive lantern festival each year. And starting in 2017, its artisans designed a similar light show for Gaillac. Last year’s edition of the Gaillac Lantern Festival drew 370,000 people over two months. This year’s version is on pace to attract even bigger crowds as it runs through the end of January.
We arrived for our first visit to the Gaillac Lantern Festival just two days before Christmas. Even having seen endless photos on social media, the displays dazzled us. The 2019-2020 edition includes 46 exhibits created by 80 artisans. It celebrates Chinese culture as well as making nods to Gaillac’s architecture and culture.
Here’s a photo tour from the hour we spent wandering the show: