LaSalette Feat for Story

Visitors take in the Christmas displays Tuesday afternoon at LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro. The shrine will be aglow beginning Thursday night as some 400,000 lights will be turned on for the annual Festival of Lights celebration.

ATTLEBORO — The region’s most popular annual holiday lights display kicks off Thanksgiving Day at LaSalette Shrine.

The Festival of Lights is on every night from 5 to 9 p.m. until Jan. 2 and features more than 400,000 lights spread over 10 acres at the shrine off Park Street (Route 118).

There is no charge for entrance or parking but donations are accepted.

Thousands visit the display every night, and crowds can be especially big on weekends and around Christmas.

Visitors are asked to adhere to social distancing of at least 6 feet and wear masks when indoors.

All public buildings will close at 8:30 each night and the lights go off at 9.

This year marks the 68th annual holiday light display.

Besides the lights, popular attractions again will include Clopper the Donkey at the outdoor manger, near where the opening ceremony is held each year with the singing of “Silent Night.” There is also be the International Creche Museum with hundreds of creches from around the world, a food court/cafeteria with a snack bar/hot chocolate/cider, and a carousel.

Andre Patenaude, known as “Father Pat,” will again be singing and playing his guitar at 3 and 7 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There will also be a special concert at 7 p.m. Thanksgiving.

This year’s theme is “Love is Born.”

Special Masses are as follows: Thanksgiving Day, 4 p.m.; Christmas Eve 4 p.m. (pageant), 6 p.m. and Midnight Mass; Christmas Day, 12:10 p.m.; New Year’s Eve, 6 p.m.; and New Year’s Day, 12:10 and 4 p.m.

Shrine officials say that during the pandemic, the traditional Christmas illuminations are needed more than ever as a sign of hope.

“In the past two years, we have lived through unprecedented times. We’ve witnessed natural disasters, civil and political divisions, and mourned those whom we lost during the pandemic,” said the shrine’s director, the Rev. Flavio Gillio.

The Christmas illuminations began in 1953 when the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette established a Catholic shrine in Attleboro. The shrine was inaugurated on Dec. 8, 1953, and to celebrate the opening so close to Christmas, a Nativity scene was displayed and some evergreen trees were decorated with Christmas lights. Since that humble beginning, the religious illuminations have grown to become the largest religious display in New England.

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