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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lotus Lantern Festival

I'd been looking forward to the Lotus Lantern Festival for a while now and it certainly didn't disappoint today. Held to celebrate Buddha's birthday, the festival unfolds over an entire weekend and includes a parade through the the heart of Seoul.

Besides just walking around seeing the sights and collecting freebies (wooo tissues and a plastic, lotus-shaped piggy bank!) I also got the chance to make my own lotus lantern from tissue paper. Volunteers helped hundreds of foreigners create these delicate lanterns. And while mine looks like something a spastic 5-year-old made, there's a certain amount of pleasure that I actually made something with my own two hands. It might not survive the move back to the States, but it's at least a nice touch to my current apartment.

The materials: white lantern, tissue paper, glue.

First you have to separate each individual sheet of paper.

Then twist the ends of the paper. This forms petals.

It's a slow, tedious process -- but the end result is worth it.

The finished product!

Like a sweatshop of waegook lotus lantern makers.

Buddhist sects from around the world were represented and displayed local crafts and goods. Korea was also represented by artists doing traditional crafts. At one table, old people wrote family prophecies in hanja, a form of Chinese writing used in old Korean. This is a dying art and it's nice to see it preserved here -- my paper says something about good words coming from the heart.

All in all, a fantastic day. Now that spring is here, there are more outdoor festivals and chances to visit different parts of the city. It's always fun to learn about new aspects of Korean culture and, even better, do some serious people-watching.

Lanterns floating on the river.

Get a lot of foreigners in one place and out come the paparazzi.

They are really strict about this event being only for foreigners.

I had to strongly resist the urge not to grab this child and run. Precious!

Traditional tea ceremony.

Anime Buddha?

Kids are a lot cuter when I'm NOT teaching them.