ATTLEBORO — A Christmas tradition for thousands of families for well over half a century, the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro will flip the switch on its Christmas Festival of Lights Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 28.
But this year’s 60th annual festival, which features more than 350,000 lights illuminating over 10 acres, will incorporate a whopping 800,000 LED lights — twice as many as last year – making the shrine a leader in energy efficiency.
A third of the lights were made possible thanks to donations.
The shrine’s drive to begin using LED lights in the display and to slowly replace the traditional bulbs began in 2009. Shrine officials say the electric bill is about $40,000 a year and they estimate with LED lights it will be closer to $8,000 a year.
Even though they cost more than other types, LED lights last longer, produce far less heat and use less energy. The letters stand for “light-emitting diode.” Unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs are solid-state. There’s no filament that heats up with wasteful thermal radiation. Instead, light is released when electrical current excites electrons in the diode.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a typical strand of incandescent lights may last three years, while a comparable strand of LEDs can last 20 years or more. In addition, an LED bulb generally consumes 75 percent less energy than it’s incandescent.
This year, the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette is celebrating "60 Years Serving God's People,” and to mark the occasion of its jubilee year, there will be a new display at the shrine's entrance: a separate light show synchronized to music. The light show will premiere following the 4 p.m. Mass on Nov. 28. There will also be an opening ceremony and blessing at 5 p.m.
La Salette’s story traces its beginnings to Sept. 19, 1846, when the Blessed Mother appeared to two shepherd children at La Salette, a small hamlet in the French Alps. Through the children, she gave her message of "Reconciliation" to the world. She insisted that this message be made known to all her people. Consequently, in 1852, the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette were founded to serve as a "perpetual remembrance of Mary's merciful Apparition."
In 1892 two La Salette Missionaries arrived to explore a possible settlement in the New World and ultimately settled in Hartford, Conn. Since then, the United States presence has grown nationwide. In 1942, the La Salette Missionaries bought the Attleboro, Mass., property as a major seminary and in 1952, the construction of the Shrine was announced. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 1953, marked the official opening of the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro.
Other attractions at the shrine during the Christmas Festival of Lights include an international crèche museum, which has hundreds of crèches from around the world; a special Exhibit of Mary "Pieta" and the Icon museum; the outdoor Crèche of Bethlehem; and Clopper the Christmas donkey.
The Christmas Festival of Lights begins Nov. 28 and runs through Jan. 5.
Admission and parking at the annual Festival of Lights is free and donations are accepted.
For more information on the shrine and the Festival of Lights, visit www.lasalette-shrine.org .