Lotus Lantern Festival

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Being in Seoul in May, meant that I was in time for many of the Korean festivals. However, as I explained in a previous post about the sinking of the Sewol, the ambiance in Korea – and particularly in Seoul – was quite somber. With the proclamation of National Mourning, most festivals were cancelled. This being said, the Lotus Lantern Festival, which is highly symbolic, was maintained and turned its focus on honoring the victims.

The Lotus Lantern Festival is held every year on April 8th (of the lunar calendar) in honor of Buddha’s Birth. Lotus-shaped lanterns are hanged across Seoul for several weeks before the festival, which officially kicks off with the lighting of the Jangeumdang (a large lantern that symbolizes Buddhism and Buddha’s Birthday), at Seoul Plaza. The celebration continues with various Buddhist programs and activities and ends with a lantern parade along Jongno Street in the heart of Seoul.

This festival started off as a traditional Korean folk festival centuries ago during the Goryeo Period, when Buddhism was ancient Korea’s official religion. Today, the festival maintains the tradition of making and hanging lanterns as symbolic offerings of light, wisdom and compassion in a world too often filled with darkness and suffering.

Being in Seoul in time for the Lotus Lantern Festival (from April 25 to May 11 2014), I attended the parade along Jongno Street with my roomate Diana and some friends. It was truly an impressive sight with thousands of lit lanterns of all size and shapes and, more specifically this year, yellow lanterns with ribbons bearing the names of the Sewol’s victims.

Apart from the parade, I also had a chance to see the many lanterns hanged along the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul and exposed in the courts of the Beomeosa Temple in Busan.

The festival is generally made up of many events, including ceremonies, performances, exhibitions and parades. I am not sure if they were held this year or cancelled, but I didn’t attend them.

And one last picture, just because.

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