Adventures of an American Seoul-Sister

Adventures and Observations of an American Seoul-Sister

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lotus Lantern Festival Parade

The Lotus Lantern Festival celebrates Buddha's birthday which, in Korea, was May 5th.  (Funny enough, my Japanese friend told me that Japan celebrated Buddha's birthday in April!)

The celebration lasts for several weeks and includes street-side lantern decorations and small fireworks displays in local parks.  On parade day, hanbok-clad Koreans meet at a stadium for the "Buddhist Cheer Rally."  This consists of different local school children performing short K-pop dances that are projected onto a big screen, and ajimas (old aunties) waving pieces of colored construction paper in-sync to the music.  This got boring fast, so I headed to the neighborhood of Dongdaemun--the official start of the evening's parade, and waited for the coming darkness to bring the promises lantern procession. 

In this, I was not disappointed.  My very-luckily-chosen vantage point ended up being a major merging point for the parade.  So, on my left, I got to see the giant lanterns pass by and on my right I got to see traditional musicians and smaller hand-held lanterns before they all merged into one line at the end of the block.  It was fantastic!

The large lanterns were truely impressive creations made mostly of paper.  Many were pulled or pushed along by teams and some were motorized. 

On my right, traditional musicians played drums and swung head tassles.  People in hanbok carried lanterns and performed choreographed marches.  Representatives from other nations marched in the parade, including a large group from Tibet. 

Although most of the festivities are not worth a crowded subway ride to see, the parade is a must for anyone in the area of Seoul during the spring season.

Wow!  I sure took a lot of pics, so I am going to split these into several posts.  Let's start with the pics from the Buddhist Cheer Rally. 

Some pre-parade lantern piles:


The crowd in boogie-motion:

The crowd eagerly awaiting the choreographed group-colored-paper waving:

One group of dancers seen in the distance performing for monks:

Next time, I'll post some of the parade pics. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

How to Eat Rice

Generally, I shun white rice as the nutritioanal miscreant that it is.  However, if I am going to eat it, I prefer to eat it as tteok.  Tteok is a Korean treat like soft candy.  It is white rice that is pounded into a pliable dough that can be formed into shapes, colored, and filled with gooey-ness.  Though tteok can take on hundreds of different shapes, all tteok tastes relatively the same--usually sweet and always ricey. 

Sometimes tteok is filled, commonly with a sweet bean paste or sweet potatoes, and this helps vary the flavor.  Other times, it can be shaped into a plain thick noodle and served in a sauce like the popular street snack tteokbokki.  Tteok can be rolled into slabs and layered with fillings like charcoal dust or ground soybeans.  Or, it can be rolled into balls and flavored with ground pine needles or powered with soybean dust.  It can even be made into dumplings (mandu) and added to soups.

I like to eat tteok less for the taste and more because it is just so pretty.  That being said, many of the varieties of tteok are quite ugly, but I don't eat those.  Here are some examples of pretty tteok displayed at Seoul's Tteok Museum.

This isn't pretty, but the picture turned out good.

Most of these ones are puffed, not pounded, but they displays are traditional and beautiful.