Monday, 11 May 2015

The Colorful Lotus Lantern Parade: From Where It All Starts...

It's the most watched, the most popular, and the longest night parade in Korea. On May 12, Saturday, the annual Lotus Lantern Parade lights up the streets of Seoul again. 

For everyone who has seen the parade, the colored lights, elaborate floats and costumes glowing in the cool spring night mesmerize the crowds as it passes through the streets of the Jongno District. (For photographs of the previous lantern parade, do click THIS). 

As I have already seen the parade from the very crowded streets in Jongno a few times, I plan to watch instead the performances of the Yeon Deung Hoe, or the Lotus Lantern Festival, from where it all starts.

At 4:30 PM, on May 12, Saturday, Eoulim Madang, or the Buddhist cheering, will be held at the stadium of Dongkuk University. Aside from the usual prayers and ceremonies, the participants of the parade will cheer and dance to celebrate Buddha's birthday.

Last year, I was there right at the starting point of the parade. It was still daylight and the participants had not yet even lighted their lanterns. But what struck me were the colors and the atmosphere of the celebration. I realized it was not the lanterns that make the parade fascinating; it was the colorful costumes!

As the streets around the Jongno District will be closed to traffic on Saturday, make sure you know which subway station you want to watch it from. You can just exit from Jongno 5-ga Station, Jongno 3-ga Station, or from the Jongggak Station, all Line 1. 

As the parade leaves Dongkuk University at 6PM, it should be cruising along the Jongno streets by 7PM, when darkness will have fallen, and all the lanterns will be glowing in the dark. Do watch out for the elaborate, glowing floats with moving mechanical contraptions!

The lotus lantern parade usually ends at the Jogyesa Temple, where the participants continue their cheering and dancing even after the parade is over. And most of the floats will be parked along the street near the temple. You can always have your photos next to the floats there.

Here are some photographs of the participants in their colorful hanbok and costumes.

If you plan to watch the parade, you will have to secure a spot along the main Jongno road early in the afternoon on Saturday, May 16. As I mentioned, the lantern parade starts at the Dongkuk University at 6PM, and will pass through the Dongdaemun Culture and History Park, and will turn left towards the main Jongno street.

Warning: be prepared to stand for hours! 

So, do wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Also, make sure you have something to eat before going there.

But if you also wish to watch the performances at Dongkuk University, be there before 4PM.  From Exit 6 of Dongkuk University Station, you can just follow the crowds towards the university's stadium.

See you there!

PS. Here's the official website of the festival:

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