Exactly one year ago, I moved to South Korea and one of the country’s biggest holidays was right around the corner: Buddha’s Birthday! I was lucky to celebrate with Jeongsu and his family and we had a blast. This year, we went to the temples again and hiked around Songnisan in Chungcheongbukdo! However, no matter where in Korea you are, Koreans celebrate Buddha’s birthday everywhere and it’s a blast!
Here’s how Koreans celebrate Buddha’s Birthday:
The Family Gets Together
Jeongsu and I went to his parents’ house on Buddha’s birthday and his brother from Seoul also came for the occasion. Usually, the family gets together and has lunch and dinner together. Korean families also engage in different outdoor activities, such as going on a trip, riding bikes or hiking. Jeongsu’s family visit the nearby Songnisan National Park each year on Buddha’s Birthday.
Dress Up in Hiking Gear
Unlike in Western countries, where you see people dressed in their nicest clothes for Christmas, people in Korea dress up in their finest hiking gear for the holiday (or actually any day they decide to step outdoors). Jeongsu, his brother and his parents all dressed up in hiking shoes, sweatproof shirts, hats and hiking backpacks. I felt kind of strange in my leggings and T-shirt but I did not forget to bring my Nike’s to not stand out too much.
Visit a Temple
We drove to Songnisan and first stopped by the big temple called Beopjusa. Traditionally, families visit various temples where special activities and performances are held. At Beopjusa, they had a big choir of ladies wearing beautiful hanbok and various important looking monks giving speeches and offerings to Buddha. Plastic chairs and hundreds of lantern decorations are set up for the visitors and it’s all free to see.
Get a Free Lunch
One of the best parts on the holiday is the free bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables) the temples give out for free for lunch. Even though you sometimes need to line of for a while and it can get very crowded, it’s still a nice treat to receive from the temples!
Hike and Have Fun!
After the ceremonies and delicious lunch, we set out on our hike around the area. I also got to do a free calligraphy session at the temple! It’s fun to enjoy the good weather and hike with family. This is what makes this holiday so special!
More Photos From Buddha’s Birthday in Songnisan:
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