Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Buddha's birthday: more fun than Christmas.

Seoul calls its official celebration of Buddha's birthday the Lotus Lantern Festival and it's a better party than Christmas for sure.  I attended the festivities Saturday night and am glad I did.  First came a surprisingly long parade with a cast of thousands.  Here's some things you won't see at Xmas:

Huge green swastikas.

Beauty queens in glowing giant lotus flowers.

Hundreds of ajummas carrying torches for Buddha.


Cool paper floats.

Really cool paper floats.

More beauty queens.


More ajummas.

You know that one guy at the rock concert who's really into it?  Here he is, cheering wildly at the parade.

Untold thousands of plastic chairs.
Yes, the Lotus Lantern Festival parade upstages all that dreary stations of the cross stuff.  But the parade was just the beginning and the evening got even better afterward when the city blocked off a street for a huge dance party.

Confetti shower, searchlights, large crowd and loud music:  lighten up, Mohammed.  Try some fun on for size.

Manning a confetti cannon is probably a union job.

A troupe of dancers on the stage helpfully demonstrated the steps for each song.
I don't have many pictures of the dancing because I was too busy dancing.  After a few minutes of standing around I was forcibly incorporated into a passing train of revelers and shuttled into the crowd.  This was de rigeur, being seized by random strangers and press-ganged into a group dance.  I can't count the number of dancing circles or trains I enjoyed or the number of random Koreans I high-fived in passing.  I'm confident a good time was had by all.

I was behind my lovely companion in one of the many trains shuffling through the crowd when the shufflers in front of her suddenly dashed ahead, severing the train and leaving her in the lead.  Her surprise at her election was just adorable.  Sadly, she immediately ran up against a rearward segment of our train and because one can't just stop with 70 people shuffling along behind one she turned right and the train began spiraling into itself.  Shortly there were four layers of train coiling around us and no way to go but forward.  Three unlucky men, unaffiliated with the train, happened to be standing at the center of the coil.  I got dizzy as I hopped increasingly small and tight circles around them.  After recognizing the predicament she'd led us all into my lovely companion lost the capacity for anything other than amusement.  One of these dudes we were constricting to death was a photographer who began taking extreme close-ups of my lovely companion's hysterical laughter each time she came round.  I wonder where on the Korean internet I could find those pictures.

Children frolicking in the detritus of the party.

How the sausage gets made.

The next day there was a street fair of Buddha-related stuff also attended by yours truly and lovely companion.  It was scheduled to run til 7 but was being packed up when we arrived at 5.  Sad face.

Lots of tents, lots of pedestrians.

Ha ha, the North Korean Food Festival has no food.  Get it?  (Irony.)

I guess sometimes being Buddhist means doling out career guidance.

I've been having this experience for a while now and frankly don't want to double down.  (Actually I think they're out to promote vegetarianism and I approve.)

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

I think you can make your own joke here--this one mocks itself.

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