It’s the time of year when the holidays are over, the Christmas lights have come down and it’s still dark outside. But, it doesn’t have to be another three months of dreary winter. Many cities use the seasonal darkness as an opportunity to celebrate light - by holding festivals and exhibiting beautiful light installations throughout the urban core. Here are some examples around the world.

Montreal’s Speech Bubble Street Lights - the Atlantic Cities recently featured Montreal’s new comic-book inspired speech bubble street lights. Conceptualized by Turn Me On Design, the ”Idée-Ô-rama" project won a winter lights competition in 2012. This past December, over 70 speech bubble lamps were installed along the Avenue du Mont-Royal. Each features winter-themed characters and symbols designed by artists Astro and Jean-François Poliquin. The lights grow brighter with nightfall. 

Sydney’s Vivid Festival - The Vivid Festival celebrates the city’s lights, music and ideas. In addition to exhibiting impressive light installations and projections, there are performances from local and international musicians at the Sydney Opera House and a Vivid Ideas Exchange featuring public talks and debates from leading global creative thinkers. See more incredible images of the festival here.

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Los Angeles’ Urban Light  - In 2008, over two hundred restored cast-iron lamp posts from Los Angeles County were grouped together into an installation called ‘Urban Light’ by Chris Burden. The installation was created  for the opening of Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s expansion.

Lyon, France’s Festival of Lights - The Lyon Festival of Lights is an annual event that celebrates beauty, art, and the honor of the Virgin Mary. Every year Lyon, the second largest city in France, installs light installations and projections among its historical city monuments.

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Photos via alafindelaroute.com and Laurent Abry

Houston, Texas’ ‘A,A’ - Sculptor Jim Sanborn installed a light sculpture at the University of Houston. Called ‘A,A’, the metal sculpture is printed with snippets of poems, novels and prose from languages around the world. The sculpture is lit from the inside at night to cast the messages onto nearby surfaces.

Shanghai’s Artificial Moon -  To call attention to the problem of light pollution (which makes it difficult to see the actual moon in the sky) Artist Wang Yuyang placed lights in configurations that mimic the ridges and craters that can be seen on the surface of the moon.

Ghent, Belgium’s LED Light Cathedral- Towering nearly 100 feet into the air, this cathedral is made up of 55,000 LED lights. Cagna Illumination’s light cathedral was designed as an entrance for the 2012 Light Festival in Ghent, Belgium. Because LED lights are so energy-efficient, the entire display consumed only 20 kilowatts per hour

Photo via oddity central

Sendai, Japan’s Illumination Festival - Know as the City of Trees, Japan’s Sendai transforms into the City of Lights during its Illumination Festival. The most spectacular installation involves its zelkova trees that line Jozenjidori and are illuminated with 600,000 brilliant lights to form a “tunnel of illumination.”

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Photo via Berry