Second only to Songkran, one of Thailand’s most famous festivals is right around the corner.
If you’ve ever browsed through pictures of Thailand anywhere online, you’ve certainly found beautiful images of dozens of lanterns floating in the night sky or down a river.
These are actually two different festivals, but they have mostly been combined into one: Loi Krathong and Yi Peng.
This holiday is popular throughout much of Southeast Asia. Along with Thailand, it is also celebrated in Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia.
It always occurs on the full moon of the 12th month of the lunar calendar.
During this festival, celebrants prepare a floating lantern, usually carrying flowers or a food offering.
When night falls and the moon rises, these lanterns are set afloat down a local river or lake. This is supposed to be done with a secret wish.
Some lanterns also hold nail or hair clippings from the one placing it on water. This superstition is believed to free the person of bad luck, negative thoughts, or regrets of past wrongs. It provides a fresh start moving forward.
Modern day celebrations usually include a fireworks show and a contest for the most beautiful lantern.
While Loi Krathong is observed throughout much of Southeast Asia, Yi Peng is more common to the northern regions of Thailand.
It falls on the same day as Loi Krathong, and also involves the creation and letting go of a lantern – but these lanterns are created to float up into the sky. They are sent up with a prayer and promise to commit good deeds during the following year if the prayer is granted.
The two holidays are often seen as one in Thailand.
There are many origin stories behind these traditions. Here are a few of the important figures behind the legends:
Nopphamat – During the 14th century, this beautiful woman was said to fall in love with the king. She created the first floating lantern, and her wish was to capture his heart. It worked, and the king declared this act a national holiday.
Phra Mae Thorani – Some believe the traditions of these festivals stem from the ancient worship of this goddess. She is typically depicted sitting near a river and wringing water out of her long hair – a symbol that she is letting go of earthly concerns.
Buddha – Finally, several origin stories honor and celebrate the life and incarnations Buddha. One claims that the festivals mark the anniversary of Buddha’s visit to an underwater world full of mythological guardian serpents. Another teaches that the celebrations honor a specific life of Buddha in which he was born a rich prince who gave up his inheritance and life of luxury in order to better serve mankind.
Have you ever experienced Loi Krathong or Yi Peng in Thailand? Tell us your stories below.
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