Every year, sometime in the month of May, South Korea lights up to celebrate the day of Buddha’s birth. The exact date falls on the 8th day of the 4th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, and must be calculated anew each year. It’s also one of the country’s few official public holidays (perhaps another cause for celebration in a nation known for having the longest working hours among the OECD countries).
In Seoul, 석가탄신일 (Buddha’s birthday) or 부처님 오신 날 (the day when the Buddha came), means a whole month of streets and temples beautifully lit by colourful lotus lanterns. For me, (along with the blossoming of the silvery pink cherry blossoms), this kaleidoscope of lights stretching dreamily down and across the wide streets of Seoul, has always signified the coming of Spring – their romantic glow banishing the grey of winter quickly from my memory.
The Yeon Deung Hoe Festival’s events span a full month and include an exhibition of traditional lanterns, folk music performances, a Buddhist Street Festival and the highlight – the Lantern Parade, during which more than 100,000 illuminated lanterns and floats flood the streets of downtown Seoul.