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Walking up to Jogyesa Temple last Sunday, I had no idea what I was getting into. The courtyard was packed with people of all nationalities. Dancing and drumming echoed around the streets. Incense burned filling the air with a hearty, floral punch. Lanterns flooded the sky with colorful shade. Photographers craned their heads around crowds and searched out new photo-ops like a mother bird searching for breakfast.

The Buddhist Street Festival spanned several blocks of the 6-laned street in front of the temple. Buddhist culture was presented to anyone who wanted it, and most people wanted it. Incense making, acupuncture and moksa therapies, wish-making, lotus lantern making, Buddhist literature, temple food. White tents lined the street filled with smiles and a wealth of experiences and information.

At dusk, the infamous Lotus Lantern Parade began at Dongdaemun Stadium and made it’s way down to Jogyesa. Lanterns lit the streets for two and a half hours bringing ajummas and ajusshis, children and chanters, drums and dancers. Monks were applauded as they filed past the spectators. Fire-breathing dragon lotus lanterns the size of several cars were oohed and ahhed.

At the finale, pinks papers representing lotus petals rained down on spectators as lanterns were swooped up to take home and music blasted out of speakers above the crowds.

The day brought feelings of comfort, generosity, compassion, and loving kindness. Free things are given to you as you walk down the street. Free food was offered to us while debating where to go next. Everyone smiles and treats festival-goers, Buddhist or not, with respect and generosity. And it is infectious. I found myself still smiling on my way to work the next day. No other festival has impacted me as much as this one.

But this was just my own experience. There was so much to do and enjoy on this joyful day it was hard to take it all in. If you ever get the chance to go, do it. Do everything. And stay through to the end. You won’t regret it.

There will be a video later, but until then, here are some photos. Be sure to check out our Lotus Lantern Festival Flickr set for even more photos of the glory.

Taeguk in lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Happy birthday, Buddha! Photo by Anna Waigand

Lanterns, lanterns, lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Graceful lantern carriers
Photo by Anna Waigand

Fire-breathing dragons were a crowd favorite
Photo by Anna Waigand

Ajumma's and their lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Lotus petal rain and fire-breathing dragons Photo by Danielle Harms

For more photos, be sure to go to our Lotus Lantern Festival Flickr set!

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