The 2012 Seoul Lantern Festival

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During the first two weeks of every November, the Seoul Metropolitan Government hosts a lantern festival on the Cheonggye River.  According to, there you will find “over 30,000 lanterns of various sizes and shapes, depicting Joseon Dynasty lifestyles or representing company/organization logos” and “programs such as lantern making, lantern floating for good luck, lantern fortress building and wish hanji hanging.”

I went during the last night of the festival in November 2012.  The floats I saw were breathtaking to look at.  I felt like I was staring at  comic book characters that were ripped straight out of the pages of comic books, blown up like balloons, and nailed to a platform on the river.  The dimensions of many of the balloons were perfectly formed and the colors were vivid and balanced, making the visually stimulating yet easy on the eyes.

Most importantly, the lantern festival is an excellent cultural learning experience for any foreigner who attends.  Many of the lanterns depict how Koreans dressed, the jobs they held, and the cultural customs Koreans observed during the Joseon Dynasty.

Overall, I highly recommend a trip to the lantern festival.  I did not participate in any of the programs held during the festival, but I can imagine they would definitely enhance the experience.  The best part: it’s free.

Tip: Go early, at least on the first and last nights of the festival.  I went when it started, around 5pm.  The crowd was bearable for the first hour, yet it became very crowded soon after.  Exits leaving the walkway next to the river were converted into one-way lanes, meaning you can only move in one direction depending on which side you walk on.  This is a bit frustrating if you really want to leave without walking another 15 minutes.  Keep this in mind if you have transportation to catch or places to visit after the festival.

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