The Lotus Lantern Festival (Yeon Deung Hoe) happens once a year for Buddha's birthday. This year his birthday is May 25th and is a red day (holiday) in Korea. The Lotus Lantern Festival is about 1000 years old and is always held before his birthday and includes parades, cultural performances, cultural events, cheer rally's and more. You will know it's that time because you will see colourful lanterns hung up around Seoul, probably all throughout Korea. I didn't go last year for some reason, so I made sure I went this year. I wish I had went both Saturday and Sunday, but I was being lazy so I only went on Sunday. Most of the events were happening around Jogyesa Temple on Jogno Street in Seoul. Click for more photos.
There were so many beautiful lanterns hung at Jogyesa Temple. To Buddhists, the lanterns symbolize wisdom that they can bring into the world. The Lantern Festival is a way for people to pay their respects to Buddha.
There were a two of Temples suggested to visit; Jogyesa and Bongeunsa. But, Jogyesa was where most of the events were happening. I've never been to this temple before, so I'm glad I came here instead.
I was going to come alone to the festival but I decided to invite my friend who has only been in Korea for 2 months. He really wanted to see inside of the temple, but me having the "been there, done that" attitude said I didn't want to. Then he literally begged me to go inside, so we did. I am s happy we did. I have a huge appreciation for statues of different religions, especially Buddha, so I'm so happy I got to see these.
After we were done taking pictures inside we went outside and saw some huge lanterns on the side of the temple. We also saw some traditional Korean drummers that we just hanging around so we took a picture with them. There were so many different kinds of lanterns, like the four heavenly king's in Buddhism. They are East, West, North and South. They are the guardians, who watch over every cardinal direction.
As we kept walking on, we saw a cultural performance going on. They were Thai performers doing a traditional Thai performance. I have never seen one before and it was really interesting. I also loved the traditional clothes they were wearing. We watched for about 5 minutes and then walked on. It was really hot in the sun.
On the other side of the temple, there is a walkway covered by a tent. Inside the tent there lots of beautiful lanterns of different colours, shapes and designs. At night it would be really beautiful to see. I'm sad I didn't get to see it.
Along Jongno Street is where most of the action was happening. They had some more performances, arts & crafts, food tastings, info booths, etc. I walked by and saw these Lotus lanterns. I love these things! But when I had gotten to the festival I hadn't eaten and I was starving. So we went to go find food, Subway, then continues walking around some more.
After we ate I wanted to go back to Jogyesa because there was a section we neglected. This side is where most of the lanterns were. These lanterns make the tree look very magical. This was one of my favourite pictures.
Coming to the Lotus Lantern Festival taught me a lot. I had no idea so many cultures practiced Buddhism. Along Jongno Street there were lots of tents set up representing different countries. They gave information about Buddhism in their culture and also had lots of pictures and people wearing traditional clothing. It was really neat. It's so nice to see all this multiculturalism in Seoul.
In the middle of one of the intersections there was a huge stage set up for performances. We watched a Korean Traditional performance which was really cool. That huge brown object on the left is supposed to be a Korean dragon. There were two people in there but they flowed so effortlessly together you would never know there was two people in there. All of a sudden it would stand up and be like 6'5.
I love that there we so many activities to do here. But I didn't like that some of them closed early. They had events like clay pot making, which I've always wanted to do since watching the move "Ghost" back in the day....... They also had Buddhist art making, Korean folk games, meditation, Taekwondo, temple food tastings, lotus flower art, lotus lantern making, etc. You definitely wouldn't get bored. I was so sad, I went to the foreigner section because they had lotus lanterns making for free with English speakers to help, but they were closed for the day. I won't be here next year to do it either.
There was a booth selling this paper art, which looked so cool. I'm sure how this works but your supposed to be able to make these different animals depending on what package you pick. I really wanted one but I'm not the best at art, I could only see this being a disaster.
We spent about 3 hours walking around and it was really hot. We found a place to sit and relax and saw these ladies practicing a dance which was so lovely. Click to see a short clip.
Being in the crowds you would never know there was this many people because it didn't feel overly crowded. But after I looked at this picture I was amazed at how many people there were.
I really enjoyed myself at this festival. I wish I had woken up earlier and experienced more. Especially the cultural events. I mostly just walked around. I also did not come back at night. I really regret not coming back because all the lanterns would be lit and I'm sure it would be such a beautiful sight. Overall, this is such a great festival to experience. There is even one in Busan, which actually lasts longer. This should definitely be on your Korean bucket list.
Welcome to Herxtravels!!
I’m Hilda, the writer behind Herxtravels. Here you can find travel guides, reviews and tips. Find out more about me here.
HerxTravels in pictures
HerxTravels on Twitter