HomeThe Thai Light Festival

The Thai Light Festival - Loy Krathong and Yi Peng

Festival Highlights – what you can expect to experience

  • Thousands of baskets with candles floating on the river at night
  • Swarms of lanterns flying to the sky in Chiang Mai
  • A Buddhist purification ceremony to cleanse your spirit
  • Making your private wish among the huge crowds of people
  • Candles flickering on the streets at night
  • Traditional Thai dance shows

When Loy Krathong is celebrated

Loy Krathong is usually celebrated on the evening of the full moon on the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In 2017, it falls on 3rd November.

Subsequent festival dates (these dates may change):

  • 2017: 3rd November
  • 2018: 23rd November
  • 2019: 13th November
  • 2020: 1st November

What is Loy Krathong

In the Thai language, ’loy’ means to float, while ’krathong’ is a small container, traditionally made from a piece of banana-tree trunk, containing a candle, incense and flowers. The krathong floating on the water symbolizes one’s willingness to let go of hatred and anger. Loy Krathong is one of Thailand’s best-loved festivals, occurring at the November full moon to mark the end of the rainy season.

On the night of the festival, Thai people make a wish as they launch their krathongs on the rivers. Some people place hair and fingernails inside the krathong: by doing so, they want to float away their past mistakes and negative thoughts. It is a purification ceremony to enlighten the mind.

Why Loy Krathong is celebrated

It is believed that the light festival originated with paying homage to the spirits of the rivers and thanking the water god for the rains.

According to King Mongkut (1804-1869), it used to be a Brahmanic festival later adopted by Buddhists to celebrate the Buddha. The candles pay homage to Buddha with the beauty and purity of light.

In the still of the night, there are lights everywhere. Before the celebration, there’s silence: monks are meditating, surrounded by flickering candles.

Where and how to celebrate Loy Krathong

Celebrated all over Thailand, the most exciting festivities take place in Bangkok and Old Sukhothai, as people gather at rivers to float krathongs, and to watch folk dancing or sound-and-light performances.

For the full flying-lantern experience, head up to Chiang Mai for the Yi Peng Festival, where lanterns are sent floating gracefully into the sky, creating an exotic atmosphere.

Float your Krathong in Bangkok

On the night of the festival, people gather around lakes and rivers to float their krathongs and make a wish. Candles floating on the night-river make this a feast for the eyes. The lights reflecting on the still waters of the river are like a reflection of your life: meditate, and immerse yourself in peace and serenity.

Many hotels host a Loy Krathong celebration around the swimming pool, where you can also try the ramvong dance. The hotels along the Chao Phraya River promote an event with dinner and fireworks.

Since 2013, the main celebration has been held at Asiatique, the night market near the river, while the banks of Wat Saket remain another popular spot with grand Buddhist ceremonies. The celebration usually starts around sunset. People retell the story of the festival, before the launch of krathongs and a float procession with lights and fireworks.

Popular locations for floating krathongs:

  • Asiatique riverside
  • Wat Saket riverside
  • Lumpini Park
  • Benjasiri Park

Fly your lantern in Sukhothai…

Since the festival originated here, the city residents celebrate it with special passion. There are food offerings to the monks, followed by drama, dance, music and martial arts. The historic city park is the best setting.

The celebration usually lasts five days.

  • 1st Day — An alms-giving ceremony begins at dawn for locals offering dry food to monks. Visitors have a chance to join in bringing offerings.
  • 2nd Day — A traditional Thai dance and music night show is being performed inside the Wat. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the classical Thai drama and have fun by watching performers changing into their costumes and wearing make-up.
  • 3rd Day — Traditional exhibitions of dances, plays and martial arts are on show, with handcrafted souvenirs and local food being offered alongside. Visitors who are interested in local arts and customs will find this very entertaining.
  • 4th Day — A light-and-sound show is put on with fireworks and dances to warm up the night. Crowds of people fill the ground to catch the show.
  • 5th Day — A fantastic evening with grand processions, Buddhist rituals and light shows to set off the krathongs. It is a lively night and travelers experience rich festivities.

In Chiang Mai, Yi Peng is celebrated alongside Loy Krathong

The khom loi are made of rice paper, stretched over a bamboo frame, with a candle attached. The hot air of the candle is trapped inside and makes the lantern rise from the ground. However, since the lanterns can be dangerous, the khom loi are being subjected to more and more government restrictions.

During the festival, different kinds of lanterns can be seen

  • Houses and temples are decorated with khom fai (paper lanterns).
  • Khom tue are lanterns carried on a stick.
  • Khom pariwat are revolving lanterns placed on temples.

Schedule of Yi Peng

The grand ceremony is held in Lanna Dhutanka Buddhist Center, about 1 hour drive from the Chiang Mai old town. The event starts in the late afternoon, at about 5 p.m. Once you have booked your seat with an authorized seller, you will be picked up from your hotel by a minivan at about 2.30 p.m.

A typical schedule of Yi Peng:

  • Arrival – When arriving at the center, visitors will receive souvenirs of the event and be served with Lanna snacks, desserts and beverages.
  • Cultural exhibition – Walk around freely to see the hill tribe exhibition, such as arts and crafts, to understand Lanna culture.
  • Opening ceremony – Hear the opening speech by the president of the foundation and be welcomed by the organizing committee.

Get an Entrance Ticket to Yi Peng

To gain access to the Buddhist Center, visitors need to buy an entrance ticket. The tickets are sold out as soon as they are released, and almost all of them are collected by local agencies. For visitors who want to join in the festival, we suggest that you book the ticket package with an authorized agency via the online platform.

Origins and traditions of Yi Peng

Deeply rooted in Buddhism, some people believe Yi Peng is originated in India with the legend of the candle-carrying bird which once visited the Buddha and spoke to him about merit. Paying respects to the Buddha is regarded as a way to be reborn into the next life to enjoy great popularity and purity.

During the festival, people launch a lantern into the sky as if launching their own bad luck and mistakes into oblivion. If your lantern disappears into the dark before the light goes out, you will have an extremely good year. Conversely, if your lantern crashes, your next year will be full of bad luck.

Five tips before you enjoy the Light Festival

The festival is usually crowded: a few useful tips will help you enjoy it to the full.

Enjoy the Festivals with Asia Highlights

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