Viewing Flowers Festival

“One festival there is in Korea is when the cherry blossoms bloom in spring. It’s called 꽃구경 (or viewing flowers). It’s not really a formal festival organized by the government or an organization but it has a similar vibe because a lot of people gather in parks to have picnics and cook food, and there’s a lot of live performances by artists. I remember going to Seoul Forest, a big park in metropolitan Seoul, a lot around early April to see the flowers bloom with my friends and family. It’s always really packed then because there’s not a lot of places to see nature in an urban city like Seoul and everyone wants to take pictures of themselves with the flowers. It has a really festive atmosphere because at that time of the year winter is just ending and the cherry blossoms are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring. So everyone’s coming out for the first time in a while to spend time outdoors and enjoy the return of warm weather.”

Context: This text was given to me through an online text message after requesting for an instance of a festival or tradition that the teller has experienced in the past. The teller was a student at an international school in South Korea, where many of her fellow students had Korean cultural roots.

Analysis: This particular holiday is celebrated during the start of spring by a wide population of people, though as the teller describes, modern celebrations like picnicking and artist performances seem to be catered towards the younger generation rather than holding onto old tradition. While many holidays and festivals are derived from a specific time relative to a celestial calendar, whether it be the solar or lunar calendar, the timing of this particular event/tradition is based around a biological, botanical calendar. It is not exactly beholden to a specific celestial cycle, but rather an observable shift in the surroundings itself, manifested by the blooming flowers. Perhaps due to its greater “earthiness,” the festival that the teller describes is more casual and less ritualized, with many gathering with friends for more informal, unstructured events like picnicking or gatherings with friends. The importance of the festival, of course, comes from the liminality of the boundary between winter and spring, a transition marked by the bloom. The lighthearted celebrations perhaps act as a way to encourage similar activities to occur in the coming months, where the weather will continue to be warmer and enjoyable.