Jeju’s spring is the first in the nation and has a particular hold on the national psyche. Mr. Kang Moon Gyu, the head of the Institute of Ecology and Culture for Mt. Halla and ex-head of the editorial department of the Halla Ilbo, has this to say about the season’s first buds.
“During spring, the island is a patchwork of pinks, yellows, and greens ... Of course, this is not unique to Jeju. The world over, poets have written about spring and flowers. But in Korea, Jeju is a scenic haven for romantic poets.”
“Spring here is a pleasant time not only for people, but also for nature. Flowers decorate fields stretching from the sunny seashore to the island's highest point, the 1,950-meter peak of Mt. Halla. After spending a long, boring winter in barns, horses and cattle wander about the fields, grazing on fresh green sprouts.”
Spring is a time of new life and new hope and as the winter snows melt, people begin to look to the weeks and months ahead as our mood lightens and the dusk lengthens. The bite of the winter wind eases and on its days of rest we can let our minds wander ahead to longer days with its kinder cousin, the spring breeze.
During this transition, cherry blossoms explode astride our avenues, canola flowers and green barley tremble in the breezy fields, while camellia flowers thrive at our southerly latitude. All are marked by festivals of varying size as locals and tourists celebrate the sudden burst of life.
By April, azaleas start coloring Mt. Halla and rich deep-red royal azaleas blossom in May. Come early June, Mt. Halla is a mass of royal azalea, heralding summer. The accompanying Jeju myth indicates the importance of these natural cycles in understanding the local culture and people.
Once upon a time there lived Seolmundae Halmang, a huge creation goddess of unimaginable strength. This mystical grandmother shoveled huge mounds of earth and in only seven tosses of her shovel created Mt. Halla. Jeju’s 368 oreum were formed with the dirt that fell through her tattered skirt.
Seolmundae Halmang had 500 sons and one day, while all her sons were out hunting, she accidentally fell into a gigantic pot of soup she was making to feed her family. When the sons returned home, they hurriedly ate the soup, not knowing what had happened to their mother. Upon realizing they had eaten her, they cried bitter tears of grief and were petrified into rock. Their blood and tears imbues the deep red of the blooming royal azaleas every spring.
Equally melancholy - lamenting the fleetingness of spring - is the traditional Jeju song, bongjiga (“bongji” means blossom, and “ga” means song), about falling blossoms: "Flowers are fading. Flowers are fading. Flowers are fading from spring-flowering shrubs.”
To ensure you don’t lament its passing with similar refrain, The Jeju Weekly has put together a guide to the best spring festivals across the island so you catch the best buds of this glorious season.
18th Seogwipo Canola Flower International Walking Festival
March 19(Sat) to 20(Sun) at North park, ICC (International Convention Center) Jeju, Jungmun Sightseeing Complex
As many as 12,000 participants are expected and there are many courses of varying distances, from 5km to 20km.
25th Cherry Blossom Festival
April 1 (Fri) to 10 (Sun) at Jeju Public Sports Stadium, behind Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal.
This festival is extremely popular with locals and includes a walking path, a photo zone, night lighting and a “Sound Path” which chimes in the wind. Beware of hordes of “selfie-takers.”
33rd Jeju Canola Flower Festival
April 9 (Sat) to 10 (Sun) at Canola Flower Plaza, Pyoseon-myeon, Seogwipo City,
This is regarded as one of the best festivals in Jeju, this year set in the beautiful Pyoseon countryside which bursts with color in spring.
20th Mt. Halla Clean Bracken Festival
April 23 (Sat) to 24 (Sun) at Sumang Farm and the seawater pool, Namwon-eup, Seogwipo City.
Bracken, or “gosari,” is celebrated as heralding the vitality of early spring and various programs here include bracken picking, walking, tasting and cooking.
8th Gapado Barley Festival
April 9 (Sat) to May 8 (Sun) on Gapado, Daejeong-eup
By early-April, blooming flowers decorate Gapado, a small islet in southwest Jeju. Boatloads of visitors come to enjoy the gentle wind, fly kites and walk the Olle Trail.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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