Korean Language Blog

Buddha’s Birthday Posted by on May 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

This year, May is the month of Buddha’s birthday. This day is called 석가탄신일, also called 부처님 오신 날, or 사월 초파일.

For those who may be unfamilar to Buddhism, the Buddha refers to Prince Siddhartha Gautama. He is considered a spritual man who attained englightenment. Prince Siddhartha came from a wealthy family. He was able to throw away his attachment to wordly materials and lead a life of poverty. For that he is respected.

In Korea, colored paper streamers line the temples. Free food and tea is served to all the visitors who visit the temple. Visitors are not required to make an offering, but I think it’s classy to give at least a little something. I know that some people take the liberty of taking free food from the temple and give nothing in return. Please don’t do that. Give at least a bag of rice or some money. It’s not as if the monks are profiting from the offerings. They live on basic subsistence and any extra food and money is donated to charity.

Some other gifts you might want to give are fruits and vegetables. No alcohol. Tea is okay as well.

The most characteristic food served on Buddha’s birthday is 비빔밥. 비빔밥 is a rice and vegetable dish mixed with spicy red pepper paste. The vegetables are called 나물 and are sauteed before serving. There’s also 고사리 which is a plant derived vegetable with a brown color to it. Lettuce is included as well. Sometimes a fried egg is thrown in the mix. I often put ground beef in my 비빔밥, and it’s a common practice to do so. However, the monks are vegetarians. You probably won’t find any source of meat on Buddha’s birthday.

With only 20% of the Korean population being Buddhists, sometimes this celebration goes unnoticed by the wider population. However, even if the celebrations are small, it’s a big deal to Buddhist believers.

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