My education of Asian culture began a long time ago- perhaps 15 or so years ago inside the well-known halls and classrooms from my childhood. I remember hearing about distant lands and cultures, learning about their celebrations and holidays. It is with fondness I was able to recall bright lights, dragons, fun and celebration. Needless to say when the time came to attend my first festival, I was a giddy little school girl all over again.
May in Korea is known for it’s beauty. Between the budding cherry blossoms and the lotuses coming to life, there is growth and life stemming from all corners of the city. One of the highlights of this season is the Lotus Lantern Festival that takes place in the Insadong neighborhood.
The streets between Anguk and Jongno come to life with lanterns littering the street, dancing, music, traditional clothing, as well as people from many countries eager to share their cuisine and different teas. There are hands on activities such as painting a fan, traditional medicinal practices, rock engravings, creating your own lotus flowers, games and food- a fit for people of all ages. There is also a parade that begins near dusk, circles around the street and finishes again near the stage where a performance takes place afterwards.
A major part of the festival is the Buddhist Temple that is right off the street. There you will find traditional worship, interactive medicinal practice, welcoming pamphlets as well as an array of Buddhist representatives from many countries.
The festivities begin early in the day and last well after sunset. Since it is the ‘Lantern Festival’ it’s worth waiting around to watch some of the performances at night. The different parts of the parade light up at night and the performers all gather and perform for two-to-three hours after the parade.
At this point I was alone and unable to find a good spot to watch the performances for, so I took the opportunity to grab a seat in the front of a second story coffee shop right behind the area where the performance took place. All in all, it was a great day and beautiful experience.