While I don’t post as often as I want or I should, I am constantly thinking of new ideas for blog posts. And then forgetting to write them down. So when I go to start writing I forget what I was going to say.
So this post is going to be about the Daegu Lantern Festival even though it was going to be about something else but I forget what that was supposed to be.
First thing to understand, while I don’t technically live *in* Daegu, I basically live in Daegu. For example if you tell someone you “have a friend who lives in South Korea” and that person asks “Where?” you should say “Daegu.” (Pronounced like DAY-Goo). What I am trying to say is that I did not have to travel for this festival so I can’t really offer advice as to how to manage your time if you are coming in from outside the city.
The festival this year fell on Saturday, April 22nd. While Buddha’s birthday is on May 3rd, this festival was thrown to help commemorate the holiday. The idea is to write a wish or a want on the lantern asking for it to come true.
To actually set off a lantern you must buy a ticket and tickets sell out very quickly, so we did not actually get to send one off. But if you would like to go for free you can definitely do that! The first 6,000 tickets are given out for free on a first come first serve basis. While the festival does not start until 7pm they begin giving out the tickets at the entrance to 두류공원 (Duryu Park) at 1pm. It will be obvious where you should wait as there will be a huge line. If it’s not obvious you can ask another foreigner. I’m not saying that as a bad thing, just me and my friends saw more Westerners here than anywhere we have been in Daegu. We arrived at 2:30pm and got a wrist band despite having to wait in a super long line.
There were two different sections you could choose to wait for, the yellow section or the blue section. We randomly picked the blue section only to find out later that if we had waited in the longer yellow section line we would have gotten a view of the lanterns with Daegu tower in the back. Oh well.
The next part is up to you. You can go to your section, find a great spot and wait until it starts, or you can leave then come back, or you can even go get a spot, send one friend to go get food and soju and wait for them to come back.
At 7pm, the festival starts. Now it’s all in Korean so I can’t really say what was happening but from what I understand there is a Buddhist service. There are traditional Korean drums, songs and dances. Then at 9 pm the lanterns begin to be lit and let go. It’s a little bit of a slow burn at first because the lanterns are a bit hard to get off the ground, trust me it’s not as easy or as effortless as it looks. But when it starts going it really is beautiful. Like breathtakingly beautiful.
What I am about to say next might subject me to ridicule, but after taking a short video and a few photos I felt the need to put down my phone and just enjoy the festival for what it was with my own eyes.
I didn’t want to remember it through a lens.
After the festival we walked out on to the street and there was…a huge parade!! But unlike like Western countries where you are quarantined to the sidewalk, in Korea we just walked along side with all the floats and the acts like it was no big thing. The streets were filled with people. I’ve never really been a part of anything else quite like it.
Really only one word can sum up the experience: unforgettable.