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Nights of Lights

Nights of Lights

“Nights of Lights” in St. Augustine, Florida, is a spectacular annual holiday tradition where the city’s historic district is adorned with millions of twinkling white lights, turning it into a magical winter wonderland. This event has a rich history dating back to the 18th century and has become one of the most celebrated and beloved holiday light displays in the United States.

Origins of Nights of Lights

  • Spanish Colonial Era: St. Augustine, founded by Spanish explorers in 1565, has a long history of celebrating the holiday season. The tradition of lighting candles during Christmas dates back to the Spanish Colonial period when St. Augustine was part of Spanish Florida.
  • Candlelight Procession: In the late 1700s, it was customary for the townspeople to place white candles in windows and gather for a candlelight procession on Christmas Eve. This simple yet beautiful tradition was the precursor to the grand “Nights of Lights” we see today.

Modern Revival

  • Recreation of Tradition: In the late 20th century, the “Nights of Lights” tradition was revived as a way to honor St. Augustine’s rich history and bring some holiday magic to the city. This modern version was inspired by the historical customs of lighting candles during the holiday season.
  • Official Start: The modern “Nights of Lights” was officially established in 1994 when the city decided to decorate the Plaza de la Constitución, the central square of St. Augustine, with white lights.

Evolution of the Event

  • Early Years: In its early years, the display featured white Christmas lights on trees and buildings throughout the historic district. It was a relatively modest but charming spectacle.
  • Expanded Decorations: Over time, the event has grown, with millions of lights illuminating not only the Plaza but also the city’s historic architecture, streets, and landmarks, creating a magical atmosphere throughout the historic district.
  • Annual Tradition: “Nights of Lights” has become an annual tradition that typically begins on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and runs through the end of January. The extended duration allows both locals and tourists to enjoy the lights for an extended period.
  • Community Involvement: The event involves the active participation of the local community, with businesses, homes, and even boats along the Matanzas Bay contributing to the spectacle with their own displays.
  • Entertainment and Activities: In addition to the stunning light displays, “Nights of Lights” also includes various events and activities, such as the lighting ceremony, holiday parades, tours, and concerts, making it a vibrant and festive celebration.

Today, “Nights of Lights” is one of St. Augustine’s most popular and enduring traditions. It draws visitors from all over the country who come to experience the city’s rich history and the enchanting beauty of the holiday lights.

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