Tag Archives: Holiday

Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday with the Lotus Lantern Festival

The Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul was quite the celebration. For more than one week leading up to Buddha’s Birthday, which is a national holiday in Korea, the city hosted numerous Buddhist events and decorated its sidewalks with bright, colorful lanterns. The traditional lanterns are made with hanji, a tough, Korean paper made out of the inner bark or fiber of mulberry trees.

First, we witnessed the massive gathering in Gwanghwamun Square for the Conference for World Peace and the Reunification of Korea. It was organized by the Great Equal Assembly of Ganhwa Seon — part of the Jogye Order, the country’s largest Buddhist sect, which practices Seon (aka Zen) buddhism. If you look closely in one of the photos, you can see the large group of monks sitting right in front of the stage.

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IMG_3046 Continue reading Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday with the Lotus Lantern Festival

Ringing in the New Year at Bosingak

Happy New Year!!!

After dinner and ice cream with some friends last night, we bundled up and made our way to the Bosingak Belfry (not far from the other NYE festivities at Seoul City Hall) to experience the New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony. We got there around 10:30pm and it was already super crowded! As expected. Police everywhere, people pouring out from the subway station, from every block trying to grab a good viewing spot. I could barely see over people’s heads. We stood in one cramped spot across the street from the Belfry for almost an hour, and then suddenly, police opened up the street and let the crowds flow into the street, closer to the pavilion — which was awesome for us! Because now we were much closer to the action.

A live rock band took the stage around 11:30pm, followed by some traditional/folk dancing and the presentation of the people who had the honor of actually ringing the bell that night. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, of course, so I’m not sure who they were, but I imagine various noteworthy figures from the community.

At exactly 10 seconds ’til midnight, the crowd started counting down in unison, until the first gong! of the bell was heard. Continue reading Ringing in the New Year at Bosingak

Vacation Fun

As I write this, I realize we’ve been eating so much good food lately — Korean, Japanese, today some Korean-Chinese — that I’m going to do a food-related blog soon. So, stay tuned for that.

Ah, Christmas vacation. It’s been wonderful. Lots of sleep, lots of delicious food, quality time with my husband, with friends, with our families back home. Been to the movies (I mostly enjoyed “Into the Woods”), discovered the amazing saunas and hot tubs in our apartment building, started re-watching the “Lord of the Rings” series, and in between all that, we went ice skating and today I took a nice walk through the Jeong-dong neighborhood. Ok one thing at a time.

If you want to go ice skating in Seoul over the holidays, I know of two options — at Seoul Plaza, or at the Grand Hyatt Seoul. We already knew that ice skating at Seoul Plaza was pretty cheap, just 1,000 won for the skates rental and an hour of skating, wow! Seriously. As in, that’s less than $1 USD. So we went there. They looked like brand new skates, too. They control the flow of people on the rink by assigning you an hour time slot, and they also clean the ice every hour, so you get to skate on fresh ice. Continue reading Vacation Fun

A Merry Christmas Eve

It’s already Christmas Eve here in Seoul, which is hard to believe. While we’re far away from home and from our families, it’s felt more like Christmas here abroad than it has for years in California. The cold weather (ok, freezing cold!), the snowfalls, all the decorations, live Christmas music on the streets, and the holiday cheer that just emanates from the people. And, as I told Will, the fact that here you can still say “Christmas” without it being an issue.

Today I went to see the nativity scene at the Myeong-dong Cathedral. It was simple, but lovely. I stepped inside the cathedral, and it was very peaceful to sit there for a few minutes while others sat and prayed, or just looked around at the beauty of the place.

I also came across the crowd at the Korean Red Cross’s 2014 Serious Request fundraiser. I wish I knew the performer’s name, but she played (what I think was) the kayagum nicely and her voice was delicate but so beautiful. I’m sharing some videos below. Continue reading A Merry Christmas Eve

A Night at The Ballet

Here’s another event I found out about in 10 Magazine, and I’m so glad I did! The Nutcracker, performed by the Universal Ballet — one of Korea’s top ballet companies, founded in 1984 — at the Universal Arts Center in Seoul.

We just got our tickets a week ago and still managed to get pretty good seats, reasonably priced (it helps they have a 20% “expats and tourists” discount). I’ve been so excited.

The theatre itself is beautiful, as you can see in the pics below. The seats are a little tight, if you will, so everyone pretty much sat with their bags and coats in their laps (you can pay to check your coat, too). But because it’s a small theatre, it seems like most seats in the house have good views. Before the performance, they had a life-size Nutcracker and Mouse King walking around the lobby for photo-ops. Continue reading A Night at The Ballet

Christmastime in Seoul

Christmas shopping in Seoul, in my opinion, is a bit of a challenge. Yes, there are a lot of cute things! (I heart Artbox.) Scarves, stationery, printed socks, handbags, etc. But if you’re looking for nice clothes, shoes, or designer accessories like sunglasses or watches, I feel like you’re going to get ripped off. This is based on my very limited time here, but still. From what I’ve seen, things are overpriced. Way overpriced! It’s better to shop online, on Amazon or something, you’ll likely find the item for much less. The challenge for us, of course, is getting it shipped here in time.

The crowds have been insane. There are always crowds, and old ladies shoving you out of the way, but we only have a few days left until Christmas, and people are even more desperate to sift through the “sale” piles and racks and find what they want.

Regardless, I’m enjoying the season here. We’ve had days of snow and plain ol’ bitter cold. FREE-ZING. We’ve both finally bought proper, long winter coats, which has helped battle the single-digit temperatures and wind. I especially love the Christmas decorations in what seems like every plaza and shopping mall. Christmas trees everywhere, lights everywhere. Here are a few:

Continue reading Christmastime in Seoul

Happy video to make up for being MIA

It’s been a busy couple weeks trying to get some holiday shopping done and, well, I’m working again (PT), but I promise I’ll post some new stuff soon! For instance, pics of some of the Christmas decorations in Myeong-dong, of the fun creatures at the Coex Aquarium, and of the snow-covered Changgyeonggung Palace.

I’ll leave you for now with this video of a very happy crab dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock.” If it doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will! Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far. 🙂 (And yes, that’s me laughing in the background.)