The Lantern Festival may be strongly associated with the Chinese Moon Festival that is held in the middle of the 8th lunar month. However, for the Thais, their Lantern Festival is held on the full moon of the 12th lunar month, which is around the middle of November.
Like the Moon Festival, the Thai Lantern Festival, or Loy Krathong, is a time of thanksgiving for the year that has passed. The festival is usually celebrated by Thais who will make tiny containers known as krathongs with a lighted candle or incense, and float them away on a river or from the shores in the believe that these tiny vessels will symbolically carry away their troubles and misfortunes and also serve as an offering to Mae Khongkha, the goddess of water for a good year to follow.
Over in Chiang Mai, up in the mountains of northern Thailand, things are done a little differently. Loy Krathong coincides with a local festival known as Yi Peng. “Yi” means “two” and “Peng” means a “full moon day”. Yi Peng refers to the full moon day in the second month according to the Lanna lunar calendar (the twelfth month according to the Thai lunar calendar). The Lanna were the people of Northern Thailand, of which Chiang Mai was the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom before its subjugation and eventual annexation to Siam.
Together with the array of floating lights on numerous krathongs that are released during Loy Krathong, Chiang Mai locals will release hundreds and thousands of khom loi, floating lanterns, into the night sky, which makes for a majestic and captivating scene that will certainly take one’s breath away.
Like the krathongs, the people of Chiang Mai believe that releasing these lanterns also symbolises letting go of all ills and misfortunes over the past year. During this time, the people also wish for good fortune and pray to ward off bad luck and it is also symbol of new beginnings.
The festival has also become popular with couples, wishing for a happy life or marriage together and releasing their krathong at the same time.
There are various cultural activities held at Chiang Mai during Loy Krathong spanning over a period of 3 days. Many food stalls sell authentic Thai food while you can enjoy musical concerts, parades and spectacular fireworks display.
As the lanterns are released, a flickering mass of lights gracefully float through the sky of northern Thailand which symbolises a spiritual and a cultural journey that one cannot miss.
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