I have always enjoyed going to festivals. I love the atmosphere that they have. Everyone comes together to experience a few hours of joy and even adults forget the cares of the world and for a few moments everyone is a child again. Over the weekend my partner and I went to the Lotus Lantern Festival(연등회). Despite the rain, many people still attended and were able to enjoy the parade.
The reason I love this festival so much is the history behind it. It is very old, over 1,300 years, and it is a celebration of Buddha’s birthday. Thousands of visitors come to Seoul to celebrate together, no matter their religious beliefs or background. And it feels kind of magical to see all of the lanterns lit up making their way through the night.
When we arrived I was worried that we wouldn’t have a decent spot to view the parade. We were a little late and it was raining. Also, I’m on the shorter side(159 cm) so I was sure we would be in the back where we couldn’t see anything. Our chances of having a good view in a crowded city seemed slim, but thank the Goddess we were able to stand near the front behind a considerate family that sat the entire parade. Bless that family.
It was raining, but that didn’t stop the participants and those of us who stood on the sidelines. It was wonderful to see how those in the parade were still happy to walk through and greet everyone happily. Many of them gave away their own lanterns to people that they passed by, which always brought a smile and joy to those people.
We stood beside a lady that thoroughly enjoyed herself. She made our experience more enjoyable. She yelled out to the people walking by and gave them blessings and thanked them for being part of the parade. She asked for high fives, which she received, and she commented on how wonderful each group was. She had a childlike joy that was infectious and despite the rain my partner and I laughed and had an even better time. Thank you, joyous lady.
There were also Buddhists from other countries that participated in the parade. There were groups from Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. All of whom were wishing everyone peace, joy and thanking everyone for coming.
There were so many different lanterns to see that it is impossible to describe all of them. Each one was beautiful and different from the next.
A fire-breathing peacock and a dragon boat! It doesn’t get much better than that.
And that wasn’t the last of the birds(these were roosters) and dragons. We got more! The others were bigger and even more colorful.
A tradition that has lasted for over a thousand years. May it last a thousand times a thousand more until time is no more spreading peace and joy.