Sunday, May 25, 2008

Buddha's Birthday (May 12)

May is a great month for holidays in Korea. May 5 is Children's Day and Buddha's Birthday (a huge celebration here like Christmas in America in that we saw decorations prior to it starting like mid-March) is celebrated according to the lunar calendar and so it varies, but this year was on May 12. Both the 5th and the 12th were Mondays, so I had two three day weekends this month, which has kept my social life busy (and apparently made me broke as I discovered in my bank account yesterday). Hence, the lack of blogging. But I'm in need of some rest now (and financially, it's pretty much required) so I should be more regular.

The first three day weekend, Kelly, Sarah, and I headed up to Seoul for the Lantern Festival in honor of Buddha's Birthday (yes, the celebration was held on the Children's Day weekend, which confused me for a bit, but thankfully this was cleared up). The festival itself featured performers and information stands about aspects of Buddhist culture--everything from a company that makes meat substitutes for vegetarians specific to Korean cuisine to a meditation practice tent led by an American female Buddhist monk who has lived, studied, and taught in her Korean monastery for 10 years.

We saw the Asian Snuffleupagus!


The street festival stretched all the way down to Jogyesa, a small temple in downtown Seoul that was completely covered with lanterns. Most of them were the traditional circular, brightly colored lanterns I've seen in temples all over Korea. Over the main courtyard, they were arranged to look like a lotus flower, which was particularly beautiful at night after the parade.

Favorite picture I took all day at Jogyesa.


Main courtyard lanterns at night.


We had dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant in Insadong (the traditional market area I went to with Se Jin in February), and then met up with Amanda and Good Man for ice cream at McDonald's and viewing the evening parade.

Lounging Bodhisattva lit float.


나비 게등들. Butterfly Lanterns.


The parade was beautiful. Mostly it was different groups carrying different styles and shapes of lanterns. There were also some performers and a few larger floats on cars or other platforms. Since it was raining (a little), nighttime in a city (with the associated light pollution from nearby shops), and crowded, getting good pictures was difficult. I sorted through over 600 I took all day and put the best 50 of them in the album below.

Buddha's Birthday/Lantern Festival at Jogyesa


Yes, I live in Asia. Just in case I needed the reminder.

A fantastic day.

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