Everyone welcome at celebration of Buddha’s Birthday

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Everyone welcome at celebration of Buddha’s Birthday

The Buddha’s Birthday celebration ― April 8 on the lunar calendar ― is an event enjoyed in Korea by people of many religions.
During the past few years, the event has become one of the city’s hottest attractions. It was voted Seoul’s best festival by foreign residents, according to the city government.
In past years, the Archbishop of Seoul has sent a message of greeting to the chief monks of Jogyesa Temple, headquarters of the Jogye Buddhist order, to mark the occasion.
At one point in the festival, streets in Jongno and Insa-dong are closed off, and thousands of residents and tourists come out to see the parade of flicking lanterns, elaborately made with hanji, or mulberry paper. For believers, the lighting of the lanterns symbolizes the enlightenment of the Buddha.
The Lotus Lantern Festival is a central part of the celebrations. Last year it attracted about 300,000 visitors.
This year’s festival will take place during a three-day period in May, and will feature events throughout Jongno and southern Seoul. Event organizers expect 100,000 people to participate in the parade of lanterns ― not counting spectators.
The festival will begin on Friday, May 21, with a special exhibition of traditional paper lanterns in Bongeun Temple, near the COEX center in southern Seoul. On May 22 at 6 p.m., there will be a preview of the lantern parade, starting from Jogyesa Temple and proceeding into Insa-dong.
The main lantern parade starts at Dongdaemun Stadium at 7 p.m. May 23. It will feature tens of thousands of Buddhists from temples throughout Seoul, walking the streets of downtown carrying paper lanterns, and will lead to the entrance of Jogyesa Temple, where a courtyard will be decorated with colorful lanterns and women offering temple food.
In addition to the parade, there will be a percussion performance, traditional games, tug of war, a display of Buddhist paintings and martial arts shows. The ringing of a bronze bell in the pavilion signals the start of the Buddhist ceremony.
As part of the events, Jogyesa Temple is accepting applications from foreigners who want to make lanterns and participate in the parade on May 23. Participants will meet at 2 p.m. in front of Jogyesa Temple; after making their lanterns, they will be part of the parade as it proceeds through downtown and back to the temple.
Spots in the festival will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis to foreigners, who will be alloted 100 places. Foreigners will be given free hanji, and guides will give English instruction on how to make the lanterns. Those interested should email ipogyo@buddhism.or.kr.

by Park Soo-mee

For information on the Lotus Lantern Festival, call (02) 2011-1965~6 or check the Web site at www.LLF.or.kr.
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