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When I was in Sri Lanka, we, our family, used to celebrate Vesak (Buddha’s birthday) by making various paper lanterns and making and serving food for almsgiving to the temple. People in Sri Lanka engage in religious observances and decorate houses and streets with candles, oil lamps, paper lanterns, and bamboo-framed lanterns. Sri Lankans make "Thorana" in every city through people’s donations. Thorana is a big electric light display that depicts stories drawn on canvases from the Buddha's life, and it is a notable part of Vesak celebrations in our country. And also, we have "Dansal", which provides various foods and drinks for free to all. We celebrate Vesak for a week, and it starts on the full moon day.
We decided to go to Bonghyeonsa Temple in Chuncheon to celebrate our first Vesak in Korea. In South Korea, the celebration of Buddha's birthday is known as "Seokka Tanshin-il." It is one of the most important and widely celebrated Buddhist holidays in the country. The exact date of the celebration varies each year as it follows the lunar calendar, but it typically falls in April or May. However, they start hanging lanterns at the beginning of the month.
During this time, temples and Buddhist communities throughout South Korea are adorned with colorful lanterns and decorations. The main focal point of the celebration is the magnificent lotus lantern parade, known as "Yeon Deung Hoe." The lanterns symbolize the enlightenment and wisdom of Buddha. The festivities begin with a series of religious rituals and ceremonies held at Buddhist temples. People come together to make offerings, perform prostrations, chant sutras, and meditate, paying homage to Buddha and his teachings. These activities are intended to cultivate mindfulness, compassion, and spiritual growth.
One of the significant aspects of the celebration in Korea is the practice of "Buddha's Bathing." People gather around a statue of the infant Buddha and pour scented water over it, symbolizing the purification of body and mind. This act represents the act of washing away one's troubles and starting anew with a purified spirit.
The celebration of Buddha's birthday in both countries is a joyful and culturally rich event that combines religious devotion, community engagement, and traditional festivities. It serves as a reminder of Buddha's teachings and promotes peace, harmony, and compassion among individuals and society as a whole.
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