Thursday, 11 May 2017

A Year of Festivals in South Korea

When traveling, one of the best ways to experience the flavor of a foreign country is to partake in one of its festivals. It’s during these cultural celebrations that locals display their brightest colors and passions; it’s when age-old traditions and long-gone art forms once more conquer the streets; and it’s when creativity, self-expression and above all happiness are given their highest priority.

Some countries are more festival-prone than others, of course. India has more public holidays than any other country in the world, and due to its vastness and diversity, holds major festivals practically every week. Spain and Japan are not far behind. But lesser-known (and lesser-visited) South Korea deserves a bigger shout-out if only because too few people are aware of its rich cultural offerings.

With a long history spanning numerous empires, rulers and conflicts, as well as spiritual influences ranging from ancient shamanic traditions to Buddhism and Christianity, this tiny country has accrued a wealth of fascinating festivals. It’s a good thing, too, since these events provide an important commemorative role in a country that has sacrificed so much of its traditional life in favor of rapid technological and industrial growth (the last fifty years have seen Korea change from a war-torn, impoverished wasteland into a prosperous first-world cyber-nation and Asia’s fourth-largest economy).