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Yeondeunghoe canceled for second year due to pandemic

Laterns are put up on Jogyesa in Seoul on March 23 with the words, “Always with Neighbors” (Yonhap)
Laterns are put up on Jogyesa in Seoul on March 23 with the words, “Always with Neighbors” (Yonhap)

The Joygye Order of Korean Buddhism has canceled Yeondeunghoe -- the annual Lotus Lantern Festival in celebration of Buddha’s birthday -- for the second consecutive year due to concerns over the growing number of COVID-19 infections.

Yeondeunghoe would have taken place on May 15, four days before Buddha’s birthday. The four days leading up to the Buddha’s birthday are celebrated with numerous festivals, the highlight being the lantern parade. In a typical Buddha’s Birthday parade, some 20,000 people holding lanterns walk along Jongno, Seoul, to Jogyesa, the main temple of the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism. The festival was listed as on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list last year, becoming the 21st Korean entry.

Last year, with the rising number of COVID-19 infections, the Buddhist community initially postponed the festival for a month, only to cancel it altogether as the situation did not improve. Last year was the first time in 40 years that the event didn’t take place.

The events and religious activities planned for the festival this year have also been reduced in size or canceled. Temples will hold events individually and events for the public will go online.

However, a traditional lantern exhibition will be set up around Bongeunsa in Seoul and Cheonggyecheon starting May 14. Also, the lighting of a pagoda in celebration of Buddha’s birthday will take place on April 28 at the Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall with limited attendees, as the Gwanghwamun Square where it usually takes place is under renovation.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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