In Northern Thailand, where the majority of the lantern festivals take place, there are two main celebrations, Yi Peng and Loi Krathong, which usually overlap. The main difference between these two festivals is the type of lanterns used; Yi Peng features the floating sky lanterns and at Loi Krathong, water lanterns are offered to the river gods.
1. What is the Yi Peng Festival?
| Where: Northern Thailand (mainly in Chiang Mai)
| When: On the day of the full moon of the second month in the Lanna lunar calendar. So, the exact date changes every year. This year, it falls on October 31st (Sat), 2020*.
Yi Peng is a sky lantern festival that is mainly celebrated in northern Thailand, and it coincides with the nationally celebrated Loi Krathong Festival. During the festival, thousands of rice paper lanterns called Khom Loi are released into the air, decorating the sky with a warm, golden glow!
*Subject to change.
2. How is Yi Peng different from Loi Krathong?
Many people often mistake the Yi Peng Festival and Loi Krathong as the same festival, as these events coincide with each other. Though very much alike, they are actually two separate festivals. In fact, the Yi Peng Festival is actually a smaller part of the Loi Krathong celebrations.
Yi Peng Festival
In the Yi Peng Festival, lanterns, locally known as Khom Fai or Khom Loi, are lit and released up into the sky with the hopes of sending off all misfortunes with the lantern. It is believed that if the lantern disappears from sight before the candle goes out, you’ll be rid of misfortune and any bad luck the following year! It is usually celebrated over 2~3 days.
First of all, Loi Krathong also only lasts for one night on the full moon of the 12th month of the traditional Thai calendar. Nonetheless, during these celebrations, a krathong, which is a “boat” or “basket” made from banana tree trunks and wrapped in banana leaves, is sent afloat on a river or body of water. This is done with similar intentions:; to wish away all bad luck, grudges against others and worries so that one can start afresh. Hence, the name of the celebration being Loi Krathong. In Thai, the word “Loi” means “to float” and “krathong” means“basket”.
In ancient times, this festival was a way of paying respect to the Goddess of Water. So, they would decorate the krathongs as much as possible. It will always have a candle to venerate Buddha as well. People would often put strands of hair, nail and toenail clippings, or strips of cloth from old clothes in the belief that their grudges and bad luck would be washed away.
As you can see, the only difference between these two celebrations is the method of wishing away any bad luck in hopes to start life clean from sin.
3. Can I attend the Yi Peng festival as a tourist?
One of the main reasons people want to go to the Yi Peng Festival is to launch their own lantern and snap a photo of the mass release of lanterns into the sky!
Only for Locals?
However, what many people don’t really know is that the main Yi Peng event is exclusively put on for locals, only around Mae Jo University. If you want to go there as a non-local, the tickets will cost around THB 5,600~12,500, which is about USD 170~380! Even if you are willing to pay that much money, it will be almost impossible to get tickets for the Mae Jo event.
Yi Peng Festivals For Tourists!
But don’t worry, as there are some private Yi Peng events that tourists can attend as well, and they are considerably cheaper (USD 90~130) than the Mae Jo event.
They are basically the same as the Mae Jo but on a smaller scale, about half the size of the Mae Jo event. They are still spectacular in their own way and a good option for people who don’t want to pay a minimum of USD 170 for a ticket.
At these private Yi Peng events, you can release your own lantern into the sky. The experience simply wouldn’t be the same if you couldn’t launch your own lantern. What’s more, you will also get to take tons of magical photos!