Seoul set to be lit up as lantern festival returns
It’s that time of the year — when Korea shines brightest as streets are festooned with colorful lanterns to celebrate Buddha’s Birthday. This year, it’s going to be more than just the colorful decorations.
The annual Buddhist holiday’s signature event — the lantern parade — will be back for the first time after two years. Yeondeunghoe, or lantern lighting festival, that is held every year to celebrate Buddha’s birthday on April 8 on the lunar calendar, was inscribed on Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2020.
Sadly, the large-scale event that was organized to mark the milestone just in time for Yeondeunghoe that year was canceled due to Covid-19. The Jogye Order of Buddhism, the country's largest Buddhist sect that organizes the annual festival, tried again last year, but still had to scale down the event amid the pandemic.
That is why this year’s event will be unprecedentedly large and magnificent, Jogye Order officials said.
“We lit up the lantern statue at the plaza in front of the Seoul City Hall on April 5 at 7 p.m. to signal the start of this year’s event,” said an official from the Jogye Order of Buddhism. “There will be various events until May 11 for both Koreans and foreigners to participate in as they wish to return to their ordinary lives with the end of the pandemic.”
The highlight of all the events, the lantern parade, will be held on April 30 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. from Heunginjimun Gate to Jogye Temple in central Seoul.
Thousands of people from different Buddhist temples will be gathering on this day, each carrying their own lanterns for the parade. But the organizers are encouraging the participation of non-Buddhists as well — as this event is clearly, as described on the Unesco homepage, a celebration for both believers and non-believers of Buddhism.
For those who are still hesitant to be at a place with a large crowd of people, there’s going to be an online parade. Participants can pick their own character and a lantern to take part in the parade virtually via www.llf.or.kr/2022lanternparade/eng.php.
Beautiful lanterns made with hanji, or traditional Korean paper, will be displayed from April 29 to May 11 at Jogye Temple in central Seoul, Bongeun Temple in southern Seoul and around Cheonggye Stream in central Seoul, as part of the “Traditional Lanterns Exhibit.”
For those who are interested in watching various performances, a visit to the Jogye Temple on May 1 is a good choice as there will be a stage set up to present an array of traditional performances such as madangnori (traditional Korean outdoor performance) from noon to 6 p.m. If you want a place to celebrate this event with a dance of your own, go to the Dongguk University on April 30 at 4:30 p.m. At its outdoor grounds, there’s not only going to be performances by various dance troupes but also an opportunity for all participants to show off their own dance moves.
There will also be a special lotus lantern-making event for foreigners. It’s being organized by the International Dharma Instructors Association (IDIA). Participants will be able to handcraft their own lotus lanterns and participate in a small parade that’s going to be held around Insa-dong.
“It’ll be an opportunity for foreigners to feel and experience the 1,200-year-old traditional culture of Korea,” an official from IDIA said. “The experience of lotus lantern making is a wonderful moment to reflect on your own sincere wishes.”
The event will be held on May 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in front of Ujeongcheongguk located next to Jogye Temple in central Seoul. The mini parade will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the same day.
Although the event is free of charge, pre-registration is a must. The form can be downloaded at IDIA website at www.llf.or.kr/eng.
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [email@example.com]