Loy Krathong and Yee Peng Festivals
Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง), the festival of lights, is one of the major festival in Thailand, especially in the Northern part of the country. The festival is celebrated during the 12th full moon night of the Thai lunar calendar, which generally falls in November (sometimes in October) in the Western calendar.
"Loy" (or "Loi") means "float" and krathong is a small basket made of banana leaves. It is a small boat whose goal is to float on the water. The Krathong s decorated with banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. During the full moon night, Thai people go to the river, light the candles and the incense sticks then let the krathong be carried away by the river. Sometimes, they will also leave some money on the krathong, hoping for a bigger payback from the deities. People may also leave some nail clippings and hair. These pieces of the body stand for the bad parts they have in themselves and that they want to get rid off to start a fresh new year. Most of the Thai people believe that the floating krathong will bring them luck, and they do it to honor the goddess of the river Phra Mae Khongkha (พระแม่คงคา).
Another major festival in the Lanna part of Thailand is the Yee Peng festival (ยี่เป็ง). The date of the festival coincides with the date of Loy Krathong. It is important to know that the Lanna Kingdom stayed independent until 1892 and was then annexed by the Kingdom of Siam (they will later become Thailand). The calendars of the two kingdoms did not match but, as they both were based on lunar cycles, some festivals took place at the same moment (particularly the festivals celebrated during the full moon nights).
Yee Peng is a festival of the Northern part of Thailand. It is also celebrated in some parts of the Lao and Myanmar (in particular in the Shan region). In Lanna language, "Yi" means "second" and "Peng" means "month". A multitude of lanterns (called "khom loi", โคมลอย) are released in the sky. The festival is the perfect moment for the "thamboun" (ทำบุญ), or to pay respect at the temple. The goal is to gain luck and prosperity, and to ensure its rebirth in the next life in the best possible conditions.
The lanterns are made of rice paper and look like small balloons. A torch is hooked under the lantern, and because of the hot air, the lanter will slowly inflate. Once completely filled with hot air, the lantern is released and flies in the sky. The people who made the lantern and released it then make a wish. Tradition has it that if the lanter disappears in the sky, the wish will come true. Otherwise, the people will just have to release another lantern.
Chiang Mai, the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom celebrates the two festivals at the same time. Thanks to this, we can simultaneously see krathongs floating on the river and the canals, and lanterns flying in the sky.