Origin of Yi Peng and Loy Krathong:
Adapted from Brahmin origins, Yi Peng was originally celebrated as an individual event in its own right marking the end of the rainy season and the start of winter (cool season), Yi Peng now takes place at the same time as Loy Krathong. Yi Peng events take place at various locations in northern Thailand, but it is Chiang Mai which has become synonymous with Yi Peng.
The precise origin of Loy Krathong is unclear, but it is widely believed to have originated in the ancient Thai capital of Sukhothai during the 13th century. The festival may have Brahmin origins but has been given a typically unique Thai twist over the years. Since this festival is a spiritual, ancient, and sacred affair that invites new beginnings via spiritual cleansing, attending as a westerner should be regarded as a privilege, which is why it’s important to treat the event with the right amount of respect.
Types of Lantern:
There are four main styles of lantern; khom kwaen (hanging lantern), khom thuea (carrying lantern) also known sometimes as khom gratai (because it resembles a rabbit’s ear), khom paad (revolving lantern) and khom loy (hot air floating lantern also known as khom fai).
Khom Loy and Khom Fai:
The release of lanterns (khom) is a way to pay respect Buddha and also to release bad memories and make a wish for the future. During Yi Peng it was traditionally monks who released the lanterns, but now anybody can do so. On Yi Peng Day (Loy Krathong Day) novice monks at some of the temples will release giant sky lanterns in the morning. These will normally have firecrackers attached to them and if you are staying in Chiang Mai you will be sure to hear these khom fai even if you don’t see them.
Where and When to Go at Yi Peng and Loy Krathong 2017:
The biggest Yi Peng celebration happens near the northern Thai town of Chiang Mai because that was the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom, in which Yi Peng originated.
MaeJo University, just outside of Chiang Mai, is where the largest event happens, the reason being that so many fire-fueled lanterns launched at once makes the event unsafe for a dense urban space.English translation at this particular gathering makes it all the more alluring for international visitors, each of which pay about $100 for admission.
Back in Chiang Mai’s Sansai district, the areas near the Three Kings Monument and the Thapae Gate get decked out with gorgeous decorations, and throughout Old Town, temples and houses are festooned with flowers, plants, candles and lanterns, making the entire district appear enchanted.
Away from Chiang Mai, simultaneous celebrations of Loy Krathong happen throughout Thailand and its surrounding countries. Travelers often fret about how to find the best place to see the krathong but you needn’t worry: Simply head to wherever there’s water. Every lake, river, pond, and fountain transforms into the perfect place to release lanterns and pay respect to Buddha.
An Important Note on Dates:
Yi Peng and Loy Krathong tend to coincide in early winter. Year to year, it can be tricky to figure out exactly when the main celebration will happen, and dates aren’t typically announced until just a few weeks before, which can make planning a trip tougher. Yi Peng is meant to be on the full moon but since local participants have to commute out of Chiang Mai, it’s often—but not always—celebrated the weekend before the full moon.