Buddha’s Birthday is an annual holiday in South Korea. The date varies from year to year on the Gregorian Calendar, but it tends to come in later April or early May. On the Korean traditional calendar, it is always the eighth day of the fourth month of the year.
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With around 10 million Buddhists living in South Korea, it is not surprising that Buddha’s Birthday is a public holiday here. But it did not gain official public sanction, actually, until 1975.
Buddha’s Birthday has two names in Korean. First of all, it is called Seokga Tansinil, which simply translates as “birthday of Buddha”. But it is also known as Bucheonim Osin Nal, which means “day of Buddha’s arrival (on earth)”.
The most tell-tale indication that Buddha’s Birthday is near in South Korea is the sight of lantern festivals held all over the country. The gigantic lantern parade in Seoul takes place on the Saturday just before the actual holiday and features many thousands of participants carrying lit paper lanterns through the streets for hours on end.
Additionally, many people visit Buddhist temples, where they can get free tea and a free traditional meal of rice and vegetables. And many homes and streets are decorated at night with lit lanterns.