부처님 오신 날

Last weekend we had a long weekend (Jen had Monday off, but I was lucky to have both Monday and Tuesday off). Although Buddha’s birthday isn’t until next week, which, incidentally will give us another day off, the festivities began this weekend. The city closed off some streets and held a large festival, complete with an elaborate ceremony and everything. About a quarter of the Korean people are Buddhist, so there is a significant proportion of the population who celebrate 부처님 오신 날 (Bucheonim osin nal), “the day when Buddha arrived”.

There was a lot to see and do. One really interesting thing we saw was some monks who were creating sand art. I’ve seen this done a couple of times before, so it wasn’t entirely new, but it’s still amazing to see nonetheless.

There were also a lot of crafts that people could make, such as lotus lanterns, paper flowers, and decorating boxes or plates with decoupage. Costing about 3 or 4 dollars to get the materials for your crafts, there were a lot of people doing these activities. There were plenty of locals here, but other than in 이태원 (Itaewon – the foreigner district of Seoul), I’ve never seen so many foreigners. Sometimes it feels like Jen and I are the only people in the city who are from out of the country and who don’t speak Korean, especially in our part of town. But there is certainly a significant ex-pat community here. Anyway, here’s Jen decorating a box with decoupage and Kelly and Sara working on their flowers. Look at the focus on these crafters!

This weekend also marked the arrival of Richard’s parents. They’ve come from England to visit him and so after the street festival, Kelly, Sara, Jen, and myself all went to meet up with Richard, his parents, and Chris for dinner. It was great to meet them and we were really happy for Richard, who you could tell, was quite excited to have his parents here with him. We’d love to have our parents visit us too, but it’s not in the cards this year, so maybe next year while we’re in Mongolia.

After dinner, we returned to the festivities to take in the parade. Overall, it was a fairly busy day, which was also a lot of fun. I wish I knew more about the meaning of everything though, as there is only so much you can understand by just watching people and events. And this is true not only of this weekend’s festivities, but for our entire stay here too. We’ve learned a lot about Korean culture in the 8 months that we’ve been here so far, but I can’t help but wonder what we’re missing out on by not understanding the language. I do know, though, that it is a lot. Language is such an integral part of any culture that any observer is extremely limited in what they can learn without a good understanding of how people in that culture communicate with each other.

Anyway, as I’ve rambled enough amply here, I’ll simply leave you with a few photos. One of my favourites is of 동대문 (Dongdaemun, the East Gate) with the paraders in front. Normally there are hundreds of cars zipping by 동대문 on the busy street next to it, but on this night, it was full of festive paraders carrying their bright lanterns, celebrating Buddha’s birthday.

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~ by dawseng on May 6, 2008.

3 Responses to “부처님 오신 날”

  1. I love how you can tell that Jeff’s new computer has the Korean characters on the keys so he can type in Korean! His posts are full of Korean now… I still rely on http://www.zkorean.com to get my words translated!

  2. What’s wrong with this picture?

    Jen & Jeff are out there celebrating and partying while I’m home painting windows, installing garage door opener, re-seeding the lawn, chasing rabbits….

  3. Nothing wrong here.

    You should come on over and then you can party with us!

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