The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is primarily held in Chiang Mai, and is a celebration of the full moon in the 12th month of the Thai Lunar calendar. As such, the date varies each year, and this year’s Yi Peng Festival will be celebrated from November 26th to 28th.
Even if you have not heard of Yi Peng (sometimes spelled Yipeng or Yee Peng), there’s a high possibility you have seen one of the stunning images of paper lanterns drifting into the night sky. It is one of the most picturesque events in Thailand, and the awe-inspiring celebrations are a must-see moment.
Origins of the Yi Peng Lantern Festival
Also known as the Sky Lantern Festival, Yi Peng has its origins in the ancient Lanna Kingdom (literally, “Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields”) or modern-day northern Thailand. Typically held in November, the festival represents the transition from the dark and rainy monsoon season to the sunnier days of the cool season.
Yi Peng sees thousands of lanterns released into the night sky, while local homes and public buildings display bright and colorful lanterns or flags.
The meaning of Yi Peng
Yi Peng is a combination of two words that mean “two” and “full moon day,” respectively. Although the release of the lanterns is visually stunning, it also symbolizes letting go of all of the ills and misfortunes from the previous year, allowing people to start the New Lunar Year in the best possible way.
Many Thai Buddhists also believe that if you make a wish as you release the lantern, it will come true if you complete acts of kindness in the coming year.
The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is closely associated with the Loy Krathong Festival, being held on the same day and carrying similar symbolism. The lanterns are known as khom loy, or “floating lanterns.”
Yi Peng celebrations
Festivities take place across the whole of Chiang Mai. Alongside the lantern releasing ceremony, there are dance shows, parades, live music, and even various stalls to help you learn arts and crafts. There’s also plenty of delicious food stalls, and you can also expect regular firework celebrations.
Lantern release ceremonies also occur all across Chiang Mai, but one of the biggest releases is held at Mae Jo University, which makes for a fantastic photo. Visitors can join in the celebrations and purchase their own lanterns from many of the local shops and street vendors.
Although, Yi Peng is widely celebrated, there’s a limitation to where you can participate since they pose flight risks and fire hazards (remember, what goes up must come down). Be sure to verify with the organizer of any event that they have obtained a permit to sell and release khom loy.
Because of the environmental risks associated with the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, visitors are encouraged to not release multiple lanterns into the sky, and there are many governmental restrictions regarding the release of lanterns.
If you want to be environmentally friendly, it might be best to observe this beautiful festival without participating in it.
Guide to launch your khom loy
1. There’s no need to purchase lanterns in advance, there will be plenty of street vendors selling them during the festival.
2. Some people opt for writing a wish or a message on the lantern. Lantern vendors often have markers on them which you can use to write.
3. Larger lanterns are easier to launch.
4. Be careful not to tear the lanterns, which are made of a thin paper material.
5. Release the lantern with friends! Ask a friend to help light the lantern while you hold it and make a wish.
6. Wait until the lantern is pulling against your hand (practically begging to fly) before letting go.
Airports of Thailand (AOT) Public Company Limited has requested the public’s cooperation to refrain from releasing sky lanterns, fireworks, laser lights, drones, or any potentially hazardous objects near airports during the nights of November 27th and 28th. The ban applies to six major airports: Suvarnabhumi (สุวรรณภูมิ), Don Mueang (ดอนเมือง), Chiang Mai (เชียงใหม่), Mae Fah Luang (แม่ฟ้าหลวง) in Chiang Rai, Phuket (ภูเก็ต), and Hat Yai (หาดใหญ่).