Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lantern Fest (Part One)

Tonight I did something I've been waiting for almost since I first came to Mongolia, but I'm not going to write about it tonight.  I'm going to take you back in time to 2005, to the first celebration I attended for Buddha's birthday.  Forgive me for the flashback, but I've realized recently that I didn't start blogging til I got to Bahrain, and there were a LOT of great things that happened before then.  The stories aren't as fresh as they once were, but I've got a pretty good memory.
Strangely enough, it was the Mormon church that introduced me to the lantern festival.  See, that spring we had a singles' conference, and one of the events was a workshop to make our own Lotus Lantern.  I don't know if it was Lick or Ange who organized this (probably Ange because she is, you know, Korean, but Lick was a kick ass singles rep as well - the two of them made Korea for me in my first six months), but it was a really great activity in an equally great conference, and since we were told about the parade that day we all decided we would go.

I loved that damn lantern.  Remember last week how I said that my decorating colors tend to drift?  It was in the process of drifting when I decided to use the orange petals for my lantern (although it wasn't really set in stone until the day I bought the orange canaries...but that's another story).  I took it home and prominently displayed it, and if I'd realized we were supposed to bring them for the parade, if I'd realized we were going to march in the parade as token whiteys, I probably still wouldn't have brought it.  If anyone knows where to get those petals online, I'd love to buy some and teach my students how to make them.
So, after church one Sunday in May, most of us singles had dinner somewhere before heading over to Jongno (I wasn't among them - I was feeling dramatic and went off on my own for a while.  These things happen, especially when there's a boy involved).  They - whoever they are, the parade organizers, I suppose - had reserved a whole section just for us, so we got to sit and watch traditional Korean dancing in the street as we waited for the sun to go down and the parade to start.
They carried all sorts of lanterns, as well as having huge parade-float style lanterns, but the handmade ones were my favorites (hey, I'm an art teacher, after all).  One of the things I still kick myself over is the fact that I never did take any art/craft classes - if you're living in Seoul, learn from my fail, get your ass down to Insadong, and learn something.

So, as I mentioned before, we did march in the parade and they - fortunately - had backup lanterns for those of us who didn't bring the ones we made.  There were several Rebecca Teacher sightings that night.  My good friend Chingu went to the parade with a bunch of our coworkers (these still being the days in which I spent most of my free time with friends from church rather than school - long, unnecessary back story that I'm not going to get into here because it's totally irrelevant), and you know what?  It is amazing that even in a crowd of foreigners how the redhead sticks out (or maybe it was the pink shirt?) because she saw me marching in the parade.  And then saw me transferring lines on the subway.  And then one more time at some point that night, possibly getting off in Seohyeon before I magically disappeared.  None of our colleagues believed her, because they hadn't seen me.

Anyways, the Lantern Festival for this year happened two weeks back, but if you get the chance next year, you should check it out.  They have so many lanterns hung at Jogye-sa that they block out the sky, and there are all sorts of activities and things in Insadong, including the chance to make your own lotus lantern.  And with that, consider your appetite for part two to be whetted.


  1. Do Korean Lantern fly? what does hoity-toity mean? Is it true that a Mormon people don't drink coffee, tea and coca cola?

  2. Hi Chinges - No, the lanterns in Korea aren't flying ones. Hoity-toity means snobbish, or overpriced. And Mormons don't drink coffee, tea, or alcohol, but we - or at least some of us - DO drink coke. :-)