Category Archives: holidays

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Video: Buddha’s Birthday at Bulguksa, Tongdosa and Sinseonsa Temples

 

Since we’ve been on the topic of Buddha’s Birthday lately, I thought I’d post a few HD videos shot at a few of the Buddhist temples around Gyeongju this year on Buddha’s Birthday, aka Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일). Rob Fioretta, my coworker at Gyeongju University, was kind enough to share with me the video he took of the lantern parade at Gyeongju’s famous and historical Bulguksa (불국사) Temple that night. The lantern parade on Buddha’s Birthday is my favorite time to visit Bulguksa (in fact, it’s one of the few times it’s not filled with hoards of screaming school kids and bus tours) and the atmosphere there is very magical. I’ve been three times since I moved to Gyeongju, though I haven’t shot any new video since 2008. The quality of that old video is pretty lo-fi, so thanks Rob for the update ;-) read more »

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Buddha’s Birthday at Sinseonsa (신선사) Temple on Mt. Danseoksan (단석산)

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Like many things in Gyeongju, I’ve been meaning to write about Mt. Danseoksan for a while, but I’ve been too busy to get around to it.  However, celebrating Buddha’s Birthday, or Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일), yesterday at the ancient stone grotto of Mirukgul (미룩굴) on Mt. Danseokan has given me the best reason I’m probably going to get.  Located about 10 km south-west of Gyeongju City, Mt. Danseoksan is officially part of Gyeongju National Park and is famous for its history, legends and natural beauty.  Literally meaning “Split Rock Mountain,” Mt. Danseoksan is, in fact, named after one such ancient story involving the famed Silla general Kim Yu-sin. read more »

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Photos: A Dangsan Tree (당나무) on Daeboreum (대보름)

Dangsan Tree on Daeboreum Holiday in Gyeongju

Dangsan Tree on Daeboreum Holiday in Gyeongju

If you’ve checked your calendar recently, you might have noticed that last Monday night was a full moon.  In fact, it was the first full moon after Seollal (설날), or Lunar New Years , here in Korea, which marks it as the holiday of Daeboreum (대보름).   Daeboreum has been traditionally celebrated with a massive bonfire , music, and dancing, making it one of my favorite Korean holidays.  In fact, I’ve already posted twice on Daeboreum, with both photos and video of the Gyeongju’s Daeboruem bonfire a few years back, so I won’t say too much here about the holiday itself. read more »

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Restaurant Review #20: Hyundai Hotel Christmas Lunch Buffet

Christmas at the Hyundai Hotel, Gyeongju

Christmas at the Hyundai Hotel, Gyeongju

“Christmas” and “Gyeongju” are probably mentioned in the same sentence about as often as “Nascar” and “feta cheese.”  However, like any tourist destination with a thriving resort industry, Christmas does indeed come to Gyeongju, and it does so with its own unique style.    Over the last decade Christmas in Korea has gone from being observed only by devout Christians to a holiday much heralded by shop keepers and romantic couples alike.  The resulting Christmas festivities I’ve heard one sour Scrooge describe as being “just not quite right.”  Indeed, the florescent cross-cultural fusion with which Koreans celebrate Christmas probably has both Christmas and Korean traditionalists spinning in their graves.  However, as an aficionado of international kitsch, I can only applaud in glee.  For what two things on earth are kitschier than Christmas and Korea?  It’s truly a match made in Heaven, or Hell depending who you ask. read more »

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Buddha’s Birthday (석가탄신일) at Yeongheungsa Temple (영흥사), May 2010

Buddha's Birthday at Yeongheungsa Temple, Gyeongju

Buddha's Birthday at Yeongheungsa Temple, Gyeongju

In case you missed it the last few dozen times I’ve said it, let me just say again:  Buddha’s Birthday is my favorite holiday in Korea.  On Buddha’s Birthday, or “Seokgatanshinil” (석가탄신일) as it’s called in Korean, the Buddhist faithful hang lanterns bearing prayers and wishes all around the temples, which serve free vegetarian Bibimbap for lunch or dinner.   The larger temples often host free concerts and cultural performances in the afternoon, but what really makes Buddha’s Birthday special for me is the Lantern Parade held after sundown at historical temples like Bulguksa and Tongdosa. read more »

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2011 Spring Events: Cherry Blossoms, Marathon, Liquor Festival, Martial Arts and More

Gyeongju Cherry Blossoms

Gyeongju Cherry Blossoms

It’s finally beginning to feel a bit like spring around Gyeongju, which means we’re just days away from that magical season when the cherry trees begin to bud and then blossom.  Entire streets in Gyeongju turn into marshmallow wonderlands and romantic couples stroll through flurries of pink petals.  I already posted last spring on some of the best places in town to check out the cherry blossoms, like at Kim Yu-shin’s tomb and the ruins of Banwolseong fortress, so I won’t repeat myself here.  Korea’s wizards of meteorology have gazed into their crystal balls and have predicted Gyeongju’s cherry flowers (벚꽃)  will begin blossoming between now and April 8th and that the peak season this year should be April 6th – 15th. read more »

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Top 10 Events Around Gyeongju in 2011

Daeboreum Full Moon Bonfire Festival 2010

Daeboreum Full Moon Bonfire Festival 2010

It seems like local events have a way of sneaking up on me around here.  I try my best, but I have a way of hearing about them right before, or worse, just after they happen.  As my New Year’s resolution is to get a head of things for a change, here’s a list of my top 10 local events to look forward to during the next year:

1. Daeboreum (대보름) Full Moon Bonfire Festival: Slated this year for Thursday Feb. 17th, Daeboreum celebrates the first full moon after Solnal (설날), or the Lunar New Year.  If it’s anything like years past, the city government will set up a huge bonfire in the parking lot by the river, across from the Express (시위) Bus Terminal.  Around 5:30 or 6:00 pm they’ll light up the bonfire, and while it burns people play “gangang  sulae” (강강수래) folk games and sing songs.  It’s a fun evening out so bring your camera or just come and join in the games. read more »

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The Homigot (호미곶) New Years Sunrise Festival

Hand of Harmony, Homigot Sunrise Plaza

Hand of Harmony, Homigot Sunrise Plaza

For most westerners, New Years Eve means late night parties with friends or family (and usually booze) where we count down the seconds to midnight and ring in the New Year with cheering and fanfare.  Korea has a different, if no less alcoholic, way of ringing in the New Year.   Every December 31st thousands of Koreans brave the freezing cold and flock to various beaches and mountain peaks where the stay up all night to watch the first sunrise of the New Year.  You may not know, but one of the most popular spots in the country for greeting the sun on January 1st isn’t far from Gyeongju:  The Homigot Sunrise Plaza (호미곷해맞이공원). read more »

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Dongguk University Lantern Lighting: 2010 Highlights

Samulnori Dancers, Dongguk University Gyeongju

Samulnori Dancers, Dongguk University Gyeongju

I mentioned a few weeks ago Dongguk University held it’s lantern-lighting ceremony in honor of Buddha’s Birthday on April 29th.  As it turned out, the 29th was also declared a National Day or Mourning in honor of the 46 sailors who died in the sinking of the “Cheonan” on March 26th. Unfortunately this meant all celebrations had to be canceled or seriously toned down out of respect for the solemnity of the occasion.   The ceremony still went on, but without the usual festive barrage of balloons, lanterns and fireworks. read more »

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Special Events for Buddha’s Birthday (석가탄신일): Friday, May 21st

Coming up in about a week and a half is my absolute favorite holiday in Korea: Seokga Tanshinil (석가탄신일), or Buddha’s Birthday.   Every temple in Korea celebrates Buddha’s Birthday one way or another.  Most hang lanterns, have special ceremonies and serve a special group lunch or dinner for parishioners.  A few of the larger or more historically important temples will host special musical performances or hold a lantern parade in the evening, just after sun down.

This year, Seokga Tanshinil falls on Friday, May 21st.  In Gyeongju, there are 3 particularly special events that happen for Buddha’s Birthday that shouldn’t be missed.  If you’ve got a car, or you’re adventurous with public transit, you could easily hit all 3: read more »

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