Today is one of the most celebrated days in Korea. Rivaling, and quite possibly out-doing Christmas day, Buddha's Birthday is a very important part of life for the 23.2% of the population who profess Buddhism.
We attended a festival in the heart of Seoul which began this week. The Lotus Lantern Festival was a crowd-drawing event which, I believe, boasted more foreign folks than I have seen in a LONG time. All had gathered to watch and participate in a nighttime parade of beautifully constructed lanterns. The main focus was the Lotus flower which symbolizes the birth of Buddha himself. Lighting the Lotus flower lanterns is a practice which originated from the Shilla Dynasty (AD 866).
As we walked along the parade street Sunday evening we were in awe of the many elaborate luminaries. The lanterns came in a variety of shapes and sizes, including fire breathing dragons, elephants, pagodas, lotuses, and more. It became quite clear to us throughout the ceremonies that Buddhists sure do know how to celebrate the birth of their leader. However, can they celebrate his death with the same joy, freedom and thanksgiving with which we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus?