2013 Buddha’s Birthday~ Parade, Festival, & River lantern show

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This year I went out to enjoy the festivities at the Yeon Deung Hwae Lotus Lantern Festival as usual for Buddha’s Birthday in Korea!  This holiday and festival is one of the cutest and most cultural events they seem to throw, so if you are visiting Korea in the Spring or new to Korea you should check it out!

To learn more about the basics of 석가탄신일 and general info, please check out my dedicated post on the subject HERE! Consider this post a more casual follow-up showing what we did for this year :D

I went to Dongdaemun which is the heart of the festivities and where all the fun takes place! If you are in Korea for this holiday, THIS is the place to go! The main highlights of this festival are the Parade of lanterns, Temple lights, and River Lights~ lots and lots of lights!

They also have a stage set up in the center of everything for performances… I think a few pop stars show up too usually, but its always a packed area so I never stay long!

Ooooo~ the confetti matches my shoes.  JUST AS PLANNED.

Last year I was a little late (I was at the Star Craft finals with Mr. Thomas!) so I missed a large amount of the main parade floats which run through the city~ but this year I came nice and early to catch them.  Traffic is a nightmare on this night (for obvious reasons) so if you are trying to get to the festival make sure you use the subway!

Outside the metro exits they had lots of smaller beautiful lanterns lit on display!

This area is always “selca” land every year~ lanterns are at a perfect level and away from huge crowds.

lol even Samsung had a lantern of a smartphone XD clever!

Naturally the ever popular “Brownie” made a lantern appearance this year as well!  Next to him was the weirdest lantern I have spotted to date… it was in the shape of a child, and had a slideshow going of all these goofy little kid photos to full in the face area.  The result was kinda bizarre *_*

The main parade began around 7:00pm as lit floats depicting various Buddhist themes, stories, icons, etc made their way down the street towards the Jogye-sa Temple temple.

I love the amazing detail of Korean lanterns~

The Seoul lion makes an appearance~ This animal is the symbol of the city

Typically each float is made by a temple in Korea, and around the float the members of the temple match holding smaller lanterns in Hanbok~ I love this holiday because everyone is always dressed up so cute and it is the biggest event to actually see people wearing Hanbok in Korea nowadays.

I love that the adorable lady waving at me is the only one that I captured in focus with my camera! I totally waved back hehe

This temple had the largest group of monks at the event!

If you want to avoid the crowds and just take photos of the floats standing still you are in luck!  The side street usually had the floats lit and on display for the duration of the festival.  I am not exactly sure if the floats return here after the drive the street, or if they keep them here while waiting to run the street~ but you are allowed to go check them out and it is a lot easier to see everything.

My favorite float set of the night was this one!  So colorful and detailed~ plus the sword looked like a light saber.

Monk Mobile!! If you are going to haul floats you should do it in style!

As the parade finished up the crowds joined in the street to make the walk to the temple.  Sometimes marchers will come out to the sides and hand you a lantern to join~ usually if you are a foreigner because this event is FILLED with them, so it kinda turns into a parade of students white people all of a sudden haha.

Walking towards the temple are a ton of Buddhist shops which stay open late for this event.  If you want a beautiful paper lotus lantern you can buy them on the street or get even more amazing ones from the shops. I wanted a HUGE one this year, but I could not decide and ended up buying nothing…shoot.  I hesitated and did not want to come home with a 50,000 won lantern and have Nara kill me hahaha.

Walking with the parade to the temple is always fun ^^

Finally we arrived at the temple~ the official ending of the parade route. Thankfully a little less crowded this year for some reason, last year it was way too packed~ you could hardly move *_*

This places is always completely COVERED in lights from wall to wall~ even the ceiling!

Suddenly it felt very awkward to make kawaii faces in the temple with monks right behind me lol


Yuri having deep thoughts about cultural stuff

In the center of the temple they always have a beautiful shrine set up covered in flowers with a statue of Buddha~ you wait in line and when it is your turn you can step up and pour water over him.  The line is always super long to do this, so I have not participated yet *_*

Just like last year, they had a tent set up on the right side of the temple with tons of little lanterns~ this is a really pretty place to take photos with someone or self shots! XD  I took a TON in here last year for my other post haha.

So Yuri and I jumped in of course!

The following night I was back in Dongdaemun for round 2 of Buddahs birthday~ a double date walking along the Cheonggyecheon river to see the lantern light show!

A few times a year they set up lanterns in this area (You can check out my visit for the Seoul Lantern Light Festival HERE just as amazing as this show, but with a focus on Korean culture )  it is a really beautiful night walk and I just love seeing all the detail they put in the pieces! Typically they keep these set up for a few weeks

Any events involving the river always make for a great date night!  So pretty and relaxing~ Nara and I went on a double date with our friends ^^

Hoshik-Oppa schooling Toki on her new camera.

Nara took a photo of Hoshik taking a photo of us lol capture the moment!

Hey Nara!

Naturally, since this event is held to celebrate the birth of buddah, the lanterns are all themed around that. Some nights get super crowded, but if you can go during the week the crowds are cut almost in half~ much better!

Depiction of the famous Korean monk 원효 Wonhyo (元曉) ~ Nara is not Buddhist, but even he knew this story!  Apparently Wonhyo was thirsty and went into a cave one night to drank from what he thought was a container in the darkness, however when he woke up he discovered he had been drinking water from a human skull!  Shocked that the mind could think something so awful was delicious till the truth was discovered, he experienced a kind of “conscious enlightenment”.

A fun thing on Cheonggyecheon river is the built in light up wishing well!  Each side has a platform you can walk out on and attempt to throw your coin into the glowing hole lol its a bit hard with all the rushing water, so I have never witnessed anyone actually get one in!  Come on Nara~!

They even have a coin-exchange machine for the wishing well…kinda kills the magic a bit, dont you think? O_O;

Usually at these events on the river a musician or two will show up to play under the bridge~ tonight was no exception.

And that concludes another magical Buddha’s Birthday holiday in Korea!

Have you attended any of these events in Korea? Which is your favorite? Have you visited the river for the lantern show? Are you from another area of Korea and celebrated someplace else that is worth checking out?  Comment below and share with everyone!


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My name is Elle and I am an Illustrator & Gallery painter from California, but currently I am living in Seoul with my Korean Fiancé!

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