This year’s Yi Peng (Loy Krathong) Festival certainly was not disappointing, especially for all those who sought respite in Chiang Mai from the floods in Bangkok!
Loy Krathong is Thailand’s biggest annual event and one that every Thai looks forward to participating in. In Chiang Mai, Loi Krathong Festival is locally known as “Yi Peng,” and Chiang Mai is recognized as one of the best places in Thailand to enjoy the Loi Krathong festivities.
Each year, Loi Krathong festival will feature entertainment activities at various venues throughout the city, bamboo raft races and boat races on the Mae Ping River, Yipeng lantern procession and contest, Beauty contest, and Krathong contests. Everyday when night falls, visitors will also enjoy fireworks, the release of Lanna-style floating lanterns, and Lanna Thai cultural performance. (Source: http://www.chiangmai.onlineinfonetwork.com)
Loi Krathong coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as “Yi Peng” (Thai: ยี่เป็ง). Due to a difference between the old Lanna calendar and the Thai calendar, Yi Peng is held on a full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar (“Yi” meaning “2nd” and “Peng” meaning “month” in the Lanna language). A multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom loy), literally: “floating lanterns”) are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the sky.
The festival is meant as a time for tham bun , to make merit. People usually make khom loy from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached. When the fuel cell is lit, the resulting hot air which is trapped inside the lantern creates enough lift for the khom loy to float up in to the sky.
In addition, people will also decorate their houses, gardens and temples with khom fai : intricately shaped paper lanterns which take on different forms.
Khom thue are lanterns which are carried around hanging from a stick, khom khwaen are the hanging lanterns, and khom pariwat which are placed at temples and which revolve due to the heat of the candle inside.
The most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations can be seen in Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom, where now both Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are celebrated at the same time resulting in lights floating on the waters, lights hanging from trees/buildings or standing on walls, and lights floating by in the sky.
Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.
Loi literally means ‘to float,’ while krathong refers to the lotus-shaped receptacle which can float on the water. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or the layers of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant. A krathong contains food, betel nuts, flowers, joss sticks, candle and coins. Modern krathongs are more often made of bread or styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate in a few a days and be eaten by fish and other animals. The traditional banana stalk krathongs are also biodegradable, but styrofoam krathongs are frowned on, since they are polluting and may take years to disappear. Regardless of the composition, a krathong will be decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. A low value coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. During the night of the full moon, Thais will float their krathong on a river, canal or a pond lake. The festival is believed to originate in an ancient practice of paying respect to the spirit of the waters. Today it is simply a time to have fun.
Governmental offices, corporations and other organizations usually create big decorated rafts. There are also local and officially organised raft competitions, regarding its beauty and craftsmanship. In addition, there are also fireworks and beauty contests during the celebration of the festival. (Source: Wikipedia)