One night in a year, on a cool spring evening, millions gather along the main street of Jongno to wait for hours the passing of the most colorful parade of lanterns ever! Adults and kids alike pick a spot along the main street while sitting or standing in excitement awaiting their chance to enjoy the colors of the lanterns, costumes and the floats that are about to pass before them.
For me, its just a quick ride from Hannam-dong on the Blue Bus 402, which stops near the Seoul Plaza and makes a U-turn as the main Gwanghwamun area is closed to vehicular traffic on the day of the Lotus Lantern Parade, which is part of the Yeon Deung Heo, the Lotus Lantern Festival of the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. Everyone in Seoul must have thought of converging into the Jongno area, where the parade would end.
The parade usually starts at the Dongdaemun area an hour or more before sundown and ends at the Jogyesa Temple when its already dark and all the colors of their lanterns come alive in a spectacular feast of colors.
Its quite an experience watching the parade, but one has to be prepared to stand for hours because comfortable sitting along the parade route is only rewarded to the early birds. So, for me, the long walk from the Seoul Plaza to the Jonggak Station area, and picking a spot along the road with my camera and steady legs which are prepared to stand frozen for hours would be a worthy sacrifice, not just to achieve nirvana, but also to share in the spectacle everyone else has come to enjoy.
Every time I watch the parade, I always remind myself that the tiredness I get from standing there for hours could not be compared to the sacrifice the parade participants make considering that, while theyre all attired in these colorful and full-length costumes, they also had to walk for kilometers from the staging site until they finish their route at the Jogyesa Temple, all this while carrying their lighted, colorful lanterns as they smile and wave to the crowd along the way.
Lucky may be the participants selected to sit on the huge floats, but they also have to act the part of their floats motif waving and freezing a smile on their face for hours.
And this year, on a Saturday, to celebrate Buddhas birthday, millions will be lining up the Jongno streets once more to delight in the colors of the lanterns and the floats. And I will be there, too. But before I do, I should fill my tummy before I head there so as not be bothered by an empty stomach as I prep my legs to stand for hours and my eyes to feast on the the most colorful, the most enchanting display of lights, colors and creativity: the Lotus Lantern Parade in Seoul!