On the eighth day of the fourth lunar month (so in May somewhere) the Yeon Deung Hoe Festival, or Lotus Lantern Festival, is held in Seoul, South Korea.
Because I was studying in Ansan at the time, I had the luck to be in Seoul during the festival in 2017 and it was so beautiful! I’ve never seen so many lanterns before in my life and the floats were absolutely amazing as well.
The festival is held in the honour of Buddha’s birthday. The lanterns are hung at the temples and around the city to transfer his compassion and wisdom to the people seeing them.
I had gotten to Seoul early to avoid full metro cars in the evening. I used my time during the day to visit the Hanok village Bukchon, where you can still see the traditional style houses. It was a nice walk and alway fun to watch Korean youth taking pictures. In the Netherlands the majority wouldn’t want to be found dead in the traditional clothing, but in Korea so many young people will dress up in full traditional regalia to take pictures around temples and other traditional buildings. I’d say no shame, but why would you be ashamed? They all look beautiful. A couple of weeks before all this, a classmate of mine took a few international students to visit a palace and to get in free, we had to dress up in Hanboks (the traditional outfits). I didn’t look half as much as a potato as I thought I would.
Back to the fesitval. The walk around Bukchon took about an hour, so after that I walked through the traditional area Incheon to the festival grounds. You can find a lot of traditional crafts at Incheon and the shops in the main street aren’t alowed to have English shop signs.
My first stop was Jogye-sa temple, the oldest temple in Seoul. Even with it still being daytime, the lanterns took my breath away!
I was definitely going back there when it was dark, but I had to walk a little more to get to the site of the parade which started near Dongdaemun station. I found a lovely canalside walk to take all the way to the station and claimed a seat up front to wait.
At about half past seven, the parade started with a fanfare, all dressed in traditional clothing, then people all carrying their own lanterns and then the floats. I didn’t have enough eyes to look at it all! unfortunately, the camera I had at the time wasn’t really equipped for catching all the moving images in the dark, but I still managed to get a good impression.
After about an hour and a half, I’d seen enough and made my way back to Jogye-sa to see the temple in the dark before hadding back to the university. I’m really happy I came to South Korea during spring semester, otherwise I would have missed this!