If you were to ever be in Lan Na (the northern part of Thailand) for the month of November, you would witness one of the most beautiful festivals in the world- Yi Peng lantern festival. The evening in which the night sky is filled with light is this month’s topic for our “World Celebrations” blog post.
Yi means “two” and Peng means “full moon day”, which refers to the date of this celebration. It takes place on the full moon in the second month in the Lanna lunar calendar, which is the twelfth month in the Thai lunar calendar. Every year it takes place on a different day. This festival is a variation of the Loi Krathong festival celebrated throughout southwestern Thai cultures. The name varies depending on the country. For example, in Sri Lanka it’s called “II Full Moon Poya”, and in Cambodia it’s “Bon Om Touk”. Loi Krathong means “to float a basket”, because of the tradition of making decorative baskets and floating them on a river. They are traditionally made from banana leaves, a candle, incense and flowers. When it comes to the origin of this celebration it is unclear, however there are many versions. One of the more popular ones is that the Krathongs are offerings to the goddess of water, Mae Kongkha.
The festival starts with a procession of monks, later followed by a ceremony to pay respect to Buddha. Then, the lights are released. The symbolic meaning of releasing lanterns into the sky is letting go of all the bad things that happened in the last year. It is also believed that if you make a wish before letting go it will come true under the circumstances that you will be a good person in the following year.
There are four types of lanterns:
- Khom kwaen- hanging lantern
- Khom thuea (or khom gratai)- a lantern you carry
- Khom paad- revolving lantern
- Khom loy (or khom fai)- floating lantern
“Khom” means “the release of lanterns”.
If you were to ever be in Chiang Mai for Yi Peng, you must remember a couple crucial pieces of information:
- First of all, planning this trip would be very last-minute, since every year the date of the festival is known around a month before the actual event, which is because they want to keep it as local as possible. You could also just plan to be there for the whole month of November.
- The biggest lantern release is at the Mae Jo University, however remember one thing- biggest means most touristy, which leads me to my next point.
- Since this celebration attracts thousands of both locals and tourists, you should definitely arrive a few hours early to have a good spot.
- You have to be dressed respectfully, which means that your shoulders have to be covered and you can’t have pants shorter than ankle height.
- It is forbidden to bring you own lanterns, you have to buy them inside. The reason behind this is that everyone must have the same size, shape and color of lantern so it looks better. You also can’t bring alcohol.
- Bring some sort of mat to sit on.
- When the ceremony starts you will be told when to release the lantern .
- There are three releases in total: One for the Buddha, one for the Dharma and one for the Sangha.
Overall, this festival is truly mesmerizing. No words can describe the phenomenon of all these lanterns floating in the air, creating a man-made star constellation. Have a happy Yi Peng!