Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Korean Festivals

Spring is upon us, which also means 'tis the season of Korean festivals!  Koreans are crazy about their festivals, and there are different themed ones around the whole country.  In Korea, each city is known for something unique, whether it be a particular food dish, herb, plant, etc.  Jecheon, the city I live in, is known as the "Healing City" and is famous for its oriental medicine; while other cities might be famous for something like a specific kind of tea, a certain food, etc.  Most festivals will be directly related to its host city's unique hallmark.  Korea is home to mud festivals, lantern festivals, film festivals, a butterfly festival and even a world DJ festival.  There really is a festival to suit anyone's interest.  As for myself, I have been to a strawberry festival, ice-fishing festival, and a cherry-blossom festival.  Jecheon hosted a medical-oriented festival, so I went to it as well.  I'll also be going to a wine-tasting festival in a couple weeks, which I'm obviously really looking forward to.

While each of the festivals I have attended have offered a unique aspect, they have also been very similar.  I think Korean festivals are very much like Eldon's Turkey Festival, Versailles' Apple Festival and such.  The ones I have experienced typically have had multiple booths with various vendors selling food, gifts, and other miscellaneous items.  For example, the Noonsan Strawberry Festival I attended had vendors selling anything and everything strawberry related: strawberry jams, ice cream, candles, fresh cartons of the fruit, strawberry-shaped crafts for kids to paint/decorate and there was face painting of...strawberries!  The same went for Jecheon's medicinal festival, except everything was related to medicine and health: herbal teas, spices, health foods, etc.  Besides booths and vendors, there are usually kiddie rides and games available, as well as a live entertainment stage where local entertainers (comedians, dancers, and singers) come to perform for the crowds.  The festivals also range in length, with some going on all month long to some only being for a single weekend.

 Cherry Blossom Festival in Chungpung
Cherry Blossoms only bloom in spring and only last about 3 weeks or so, so you have to see them while you have the chance!

Strawberry Festival in Noonsan

My favorite festival thus far has been the ice-fishing festival I went to in January.  Upon arriving, I was given an ice-fishing pole and a quick instruction on the technique.  There were multiple sections of a frozen pond roped off for fishers.  After about 2 hours fishing on-and-off, I eventually caught two fish. I paid about $3 to get one of them cooked and gave the other away.  There were also other ice-related activities besides fishing.  My friends and I took a frozen canoe ride in which a guy on an ATV pulled us in a canoe across the frozen ice.  We were also able to witness a competition involving a giant swimming pool filled with fish and a group of volunteers who had to jump in the pool and try to grab a fish with their hands.  You just never know what you'll come across at a Korean festival!  I hope to attend several more this summer if I have the chance.  

Still excited at this point...

 Finally got one, after waiting and waiting, and taking a break and coming back to try some more...
It was delicious too!

 The competition to see who can catch a fish with their hands first

As for now, I am busy packing for my Japan trip.  I have a long holiday weekend and plan to take full advantage of it by exploring Tokyo!  I'm ready to eat real sushi, sleep in a capsule [hotel], and see the city!  

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