Yeondeunghoe, Lantern Lighting Festival in the Republic of Korea

Traditional octagon lanterns, Goyoung Bae © 2012 National Research Heritage of Cultural Heritage

Republic of Korea

Inscribed in 2020 (15.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Yeondeunghoe, lantern lighting festival, takes place throughout the Republic of Korea. As the eighth day of the fourth lunar month (Buddha’s birthday) approaches, the entire country lights up with colorful lanterns. Originally a religious ritual to celebrate Shakyamuni’s birth, Yeondeunghoe has now become a national spring festival open to all. Streets are hung with colorful lotus lanterns and crowds holding handmade lanterns gather for a celebratory parade. The annual festival starts with bathing an image of the baby Buddha as a ritual celebrating Shakyamuni’s birth. This is followed by a public procession of lantern-bearing participants, after which participants gather for recreational events culminating in collective games. Members of the public can participate by carrying lanterns they have made to express good wishes for themselves, their families and neighborhoods and the entire country. Lighting the lanterns also symbolizes enlightening the minds of individuals, communities and all of society through Buddha’s wisdom. The related knowledge and skills are mainly transmitted through Buddhist temples and communities, and the Yeondeunghoe Safeguarding Association plays a notable role through the organization of educational programs. The festival is a time of joy during which social boundaries are temporarily erased. In times of social difficulties, it plays a particularly important role in integrating society and helping people overcome the troubles of the day.