Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lotus Lantern Festival Blog

Buddhists believe that light brings enlightenment to those who are suffering of in pain. Lanterns have been thought to rid of this suffering and darkness by symbolizing light, wisdom, and compassion. It is for this reason that making and displaying lotus lanterns is one of the oldest Buddhist traditions. This age-old tradition is continued today through the annual Lotus Lantern Festival. Despite modern Korea not being mainly Buddhist, this festival, taking place from May 18th through the 20th, has continued to be one of the most celebrated cultural festivals throughout the nation. 

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This celebration goes all the way back to the folk festival of Yeondeunghoe in the Silla Kingdom from B.C. 57-935 A.D. The Goryeo Kingdom celebrated it as the Lotus Lantern Assembly from 918-1392 and it continued to thrive through the Joseon Kingdom, 1392-1910. The purpose of the festival taking place in May is in order to celebrate Buddha's birthday, which falls on May 28th this year. 
The festival opens up with performances of singing and dancing as well as parades and exhibitions. Almost all of the celebrations are family oriented, with the hope that participants will bring their children to join in with the celebration. The purpose of these activities are to create a spiritual, energetic sense of togetherness, essential to the festival's message.

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Over 100,000 lotus lanterns will light up the streets of Seoul on the night of the 19th. To add to the uniqueness and excitement of the parade, the lanterns even come in shapes such as dragons, elephants, drums, turtles, lotuses, and more
One of the favorite events of the festival takes place on the 20th. On this day, participants will have the chance to create their own lanterns at the Jogye Temple. 100 exhibition booths line the street in front of the temple, giving people a chance to participate in activities such as creating Buddhist art, trying temple food, playing traditional Korean folk games, and of course, making the lotus lanterns. This event will take place from noon to 6 p.m. 

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