Lantern festival of Chiang Mai is one of the most visually spectacular festivals around the world. In westerners mind this event is focused on floating thousands of big, paper lanterns into the sky at the same time. It seems though there is more tourists actually doing it, while Thais are floating their own “lanterns” on the water. This small misunderstanding is coming from the fact that famous Lantern Festival is really two festivals happening in very proximate time and frequently overlapping. As air balloons are more attractive to photographers, pictures of those are catching western world imagination while other part of festival remains unnoticed.
Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai
Loy Krathong, more celebrated by Thais, is focusing on WATER. Every twelve lunar month, on the full moon night, thousands of Thais will float (Loy) a round flower-ish object with a candle lit in the middle (Krathong). Very often Krathongs are self-made of banana leave and flowers. It is popular as well to float simple Krathong – though if so, then in big numbers: dozen of boats made of coconut shell or banana trunk is a must. One tray of around thirty banana trunk boats has cost us 30 baht and Cooba had really good time lighting those up and releasing onto the water together with locals, from half-sank floating deck on the Ping River.
It is believed that Loy Krathong might be an echo of old ritual given to Goddess of Water: to pay respect, show gratitude for possibility to use water and nowadays as well, to ask for forgiveness for pollution.
Release of Krathongs on Ping river
Monk floating mini krathongs in Wat Phan Tao
Yee Peng is the festival that westerners have in mind when thinking of Lantern Festival. This one is of course focusing on AIR. There are four different types of lanterns in Thailand but only one that floats in the sky – it is called Khom Loy. It is a cylinder build of paper and braced with wires. At the bottom it has attached tray with cotton soaked in kerosene. Sometimes additional fireworks are attached to the tray and when lit just before take off, they add cheerful spark to general nostalgic atmosphere of the lantern itself. I personally prefer those more traditional lanterns without “add ons” but I am nostalgic type…
Wat Phan Tao Lanterns release
Monks releasing lanterns in Wat Phan Tao
Ligthing up sky lantern and fireworks
Cooba enjoying sparklers
It is said the first sky lantern has been released in China, as a signal between troops. Since then it was spread across whole Asia, at the beginning as a children toy and later it has been adapted in many festivals.
Purpose of both floating vessels is really the same: to send away misfortune and bad things in the past and asking for good luck in the future. People put their names on lanterns, even address so the finder can claim money from the sender – a way for good fortune sharing. We haven’t found any, unfortunately 😉
Made of banana leaves and flowers