The Yeon Deung Hoe (Lotus Lantern Festival) is an annual event that colors Korea with bright lanterns in celebration of the birth of Buddha. Started as a religious festival during the Silla dynasty (57 BC-AD 935), this traditional festival has come to be enjoyed by thousands of people every year, regardless of background, nationality, or religion. In December of 2020, the festival was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity.
This year’s slogan is “Light the Lantern of Hope Healing,” carrying a meaning of helping the world heal from the difficulties caused by COVID-19. To avoid spreading COVID-19, many popular programs such as the lantern parade and traditional culture zone have been changed to online events.
An overview of the Lotus Lantern Festival
This year is the first celebration since being recognized by UNESCO, and taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, so there will be plenty of online events to enjoy no matter where you are in the world.
The highlight of the lotus lantern festival is the lantern parade! In celebration of the new UNESCO recognition as well as to help cheer up spirits to overcome the hardships of COVID-19, this year’s parade will travel from the lantern festival headquarters to around Jogyesa Temple and will be posted live on the Lotus Lantern Festival’s official YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/lotuslanternfestival).
Exhibition of traditional lanterns
In remembrance of the birth of Buddha, exhibitions of traditional lanterns will be on display for a 15-day period in various parts of Seoul including Ujeong Park by Jogyesa Temple, Bongeunsa Temple and Cheonggyecheon Stream. These exhibitions provide a wonderful opportunity to marvel at the unassuming charm of Korea’s traditional paper, hanji.
Online traditional cultural events
The Online Traditional Culture Zone provides a chance for visitors to learn about and better understand Buddhist culture. A variety of programs such as making jihwa (paper flowers), trying temple foods, and meditating have been filmed in advance and will be shown through the official YouTube channel.