Today marks Buddha’s birthday. It is also a Monday and we all know what this means… Long weekend!!! Being a Christian, I must admit I don’t know too much about Buddhism and I’m not too interested in it either, however, they have the most beautiful temples.
On our way to Busan on Sunday (another story all together!) I spotted so many lantern-lined pathways that lead to beautifully decorated temples. When we came back from Busan I remembered that there was a temple right next to the Gumi train station. Le Clue and I really wanted to see a temple this weekend so we set off to see what the fuss was about.
Buddha’s birthday is celebrated according to the Lunar calendar. It is always celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, so it’s not always on the same “date”. Last year it was celebrated on the 10th of May, but this year, the 8th day of the 4th lunar month is today, May 25th. In Korea, there are two names for this day. The first one being 석가 탄신일 (Seokga tansinil). This literally means “Buddha’s Birthday.” It is also called 부처님 오신 날 (Bucheonim osin nal) which means “the day when the Buddha came”.
Buddha’s birthday is a time for hanging lanterns and having communal meals. In some big cities, you can also find musical festivals and parades during this time. The area in front of the temple was lined with beautiful lanterns. The lanterns all had pieces of paper dangling from them. At these temples and on these special occasions, you can “buy” a lantern and write something on it. Many people write wishes or the names of deceased family members. A donation is given to the temple. These donations will help the temples cover expenses as well as charity projects that most temples are involved in. When visiting the temple on Buddha’s Birthday, guests are also welcome to enjoy a free meal and tea. We were offered some by a lovely adjumma but decided to walk around a bit instead.
There were also a few Koreans who entered the temple to bow / pray to Buddha. We waited for the sun to set to enjoy the lanterns when they were lit. I would definitely recommend going to a Buddhist temple at least once and if possible, during one of their festivals.