Ceremonies & Holidays, Seoul
Buddha's Birthday usually falls in late April or early May (in 2004 it was 26 May, and in 2005 it will be 15 May). At this time, the temples of Korea, especially Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, are decorated with thousands of lanterns. This is a very interesting time to visit the temples, as there are many street vendors, food stands, craft stands, and other things to see and do. During the festival, the entire street in front of Jogyesa is traffic-free and full of people! There is also a large parade.
The main festival area is next to Insadong, one of the city's big tourist areas, so there is a lot to do in the vicinity.
Buddha's Day celebrates the birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who became Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Prince Siddhartha was born on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month or on the day of the full moon in May in Lumbibi, Kapilavatsu in Northern India near the present border of Nepal. He was the crown prince of a small feudal kingdom of the Sakya Clan. Buddhism as a world religion is historically concentrated in East and South East Asia, particularly China, Taiwan, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka.
From March 9 until December 31, the Changing of the Royal Guard takes place three times daily in front of Deoksugung (Deoksu Palace), just opposite City Hall. The ceremony is at 10.30, 14.00 and 15.00 every day, except Monday. A similar ceremony takes place in front of Chandeokgung. Check the times, as they are subject to change.
This is a colourful ceremony, with traditional costumes, weapons and instruments, including conch shells.
There is an English commentary explaining the details of the ceremony.
Korea has this great holiday called children's day, where most businesses close so that parents can spend the day with their kids. On 5 May, the parks and palaces are full of families and most tourist attractions put on special demonstrations for the children.
In Korea, lotus lanterns are a major focus of one of the most important yearly events called Buddha's Birthday. Celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month every year. The picture, taken at Choggye Sa Temple shows an array of hung lanterns. Many of these Lanterns features a prayer, and/or has someone's name fastened with string. These name tags, blow in the breeze and form a wave with each gust. There are so many lanterns, the tags form a waving sea. It really is great to see. Anyone who wants to can "buy" a lantern and write anything he or she likes on it. A donation is given to the temple. Buddhists believe that the more people give, the more generous people are, the happier people are.
Choggyesa is the largest Buddhist temple in Seoul. Home of the Choggye Buddhists, the 4th largest Korean Buddist sect. So there you go. Cheap vegetarian food here to. Especially the Kamja Jeon (Potato Pancake).. YUMYUM! :o)
Unique to Korea, lotus lanterns consist of the symbols of the lotus flower and a candle. The lotus, a common symbol in Buddhism, represents the process of shedding ignorance (darkness, growing towards the light from the mud) to attain wisdom (light, the opening of the flower in the sunlight).
Making lanterns in the shape of lotuses renacts the aspiration of everyone for wisdom. The candle inside symbolizes the attainment of wisdom. These kinds of laterns first showed up during the Korean Shilla Dynasty, around the year 551ad. So quite a while ago.
The spring bloom begins with the yellow dogwood blossoms of ``sansuyu,'' and the white-pinkish flowers of the plum tree, or ``maehwa.''It continues with dazzling cherry blossoms appearing on roadsides and parks, while large, red camellia blossoms poking out amid glossy green leaves in the backyards sustain the spring tide.
Now, as early bloomers are already showing off their seductive blossoms and others are about to burst out, people are beating the trails of the stone walled villages at foot of Mt. Chiri or driving along tourist-packed country roads to absorb the sights and smells of spring. This happens in Seoul too.
Thousands and thousands of Seoulites all come out of their houses and stroll along Yunjungno which is along side the Han River in Yeouido. The Yunjungno is seven kilometers long and is lined with 1,400 cherry trees ranging in age from 3 to 35 years old.
Every year in time for the cherry blossoms, the city holds its Cherry Blossom Festival, and the 23-hectare Yeouido Park provides a haven for nature enthusiasts in the midst of the concrete jungle. It really is a must see, and a great reprieve from the cold grey Seoul Winter.
Transportation: Yeouinaru Station or Yeouido Station, Seoul Subway Line 5Seat Bus - 631, 720, 1002, 1008, 703, 718, etc.Regular Bus - 3, 9, 30, 30-1, 48, 70, 77, 119, 123-1, etc
The eighth day of the fourth lunar month (this year, May 8th ) is Buddha’s birthday. The streets are decorated with colorful lanterns and there is a parade from the stadium to Jogyesa temple. About 35% of the population in Korea is Christian, so this day is also Parents day. Carnations are the flower of choice as presents. The nights of Seoul are always lit with red neon crosses that top the steeples of most churches!