The Chiang Mai Lantern Festival: How to Celebrate Loy Krathong and Yee Peng
The Chiang Mai Lantern Festival is one of the most incredible festivals in the world, and easily one of the most beautiful. It occurs in late November each year and consists of locals and visitors alike releasing floating lanterns into the Ping river, as well as releasing flying lanterns into the sky. Here is some cultural background to the festival as well as how I celebrated it during my time in Thailand.
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Loy Krathong: Releasing Floating Lanterns on the River
Loy Krathong literally means ‘Floating Banana Trunk’ and refers to how the krathongs (floating lanterns) are traditionally made. While I was visiting, I was lucky enough to be taught by my hosts how to make a traditional krathong out of a banana tree trunk, flowers, banana leaves, and candles.
Nowadays, it is very common to find krathongs made out of styrofoam and other non-biodegradable materials. Please make sure you either purchase or create your own krathong out of natural and compostable materials to lessen the environmental impact of this festival.
Once at the riverbank, overflowing with people, performers, lights, and lanterns, we were able to set our floating lanterns into the water along with hundreds of others. It was truly beautiful. I just couldn’t stop saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m actually here.’ It was just so magical.
Loy Krathong Symbolism and Cultural Significance
The symbolism behind the floating lanterns was explained to me by my host, Ajan Jip, who said that when you release the floating lantern you are thanking the river and thanking Mother Earth for providing for you. At the same time, you are also getting rid of and releasing all your bad luck. In this article, I even read that sometimes people will even add nail and hair clippings to further help themselves release bad luck/energy from the past.
Yee Peng: Releasing Flying Lanterns into the Sky
Afterward it was time to release large lanterns into the sky. We bought some of these further along the riverbank near a lit-up bridge. People were releasing lanterns all up and down the riverbank but also in the streets and the night sky was soon brilliantly lit. It was so magical that I felt as if we were in a fairy tale.
Yee Peng Symbolism and Cultural Significance
Releasing lanterns into the sky during Yee Peng is a way of making wishes for a rewarding year to come. Many people will even write down a wish on their lantern before releasing it. I have also read that releasing the lanterns at Yee Peng is a way to honor Lord Buddha but I’m not sure how truthful that is.
Tips for Celebrating the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival
- Make sure you book your accommodation well in advance as this festival brings in people from all over the world.
- You can purchase floating and flying lanterns from street vendors in Chiang Mai. Please make sure you purchase the ones that are made of eco-friendly materials.
- Make sure you know exactly which dates in November the lantern festival during the year you are planning to go as it changes every year.
- Read this article from Culture Trip to see where the best spots are to participate in the festivities.
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- 50 Photos that Will Make You Want to Go to Thailand
- How to Deal with Culture Shock & Reverse Culture Shock
- What I Learned Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico for the First Time
5 thoughts on “The Chiang Mai Lantern Festival: How to Celebrate Loy Krathong and Yee Peng”
What a magical sight to see with all of the lanterns in the sky! Great post!
Thanks so much Andrea!
Lovely lights and it must be a magical sight to see! I’m glad you have said that it’s likely not good for the environment, although it’s good to know that the materials are made of compostable materials!
Thanks so much Sophie! Yes I definitely had to include that in there. I honestly don’t think I would attend another lantern festival again because they’re not great for the environment but it’s hard to tell other people to stop doing them when they’re part of such a spiritual experience in many cases.