The Chiang Mai Thailand Loi Krathong Festival
Nov. 11 - 14, 2019 "Yee Ping"
Loi Krathong has an unequaled charm and
mystique, whether it is celebrated on a grand
scale in a major city or quietly in a small village, but for a
truly breathtaking experience, the north of Thailand is the
place to go.
This festival is held on the night of the 12th full moon of
the year (in 2018 is Novemberr 23) in most of the countries
where it is celebrated, except in Laos, where it coincides
with the 11th full moon at the end of the rains retreat, the
Buddhist Lent. In many of the Thai provinces facing Laos
across the Mekong River, there may also be a major festival of
floating lights at that time, such as Nakhon Phanom's
spectacular Lai Rua Fai (many illuminated boats). Loy Krathong
may have originally been timed to coincide with the end of the
life-giving rains, as a kind of harvest festival giving thanks
for the abundance of the crop now filling the granaries and
wishing for further bounty in the year to come. There is also
a great deal of symbolism involved in the floating away of the
Krathong, representing a cleansing of sins.
Loi Krathong has an unequalled charm and mystique, whether
it is celebrated on a grand scale in a major city or quietly
in a small village of just a few rude huts, but for a truly
breathtaking experience, the north of Thailand is the place to
go. Even from the end of Lent, the build-up starts with
firecrackers banging and booming in the night and, gradually,
there appear what seem to be moving orange stars in the sky.
As Loy Krathong itself nears, coconut frond archways spring up
at the gates of houses, earthen lamps glow in the night, and
paper streamers and lanterns appear everywhere.
With the rainy season gone, the night sky is clear and
coolness fills the air. On the night of Loy Krathong itself,
the full moon sails over the horizon into a sky filled with
light and sound, for the Lanna folk celebrate Loy Krathong in
three dimensions. Giant hot air balloons, called Kome Loy,
rise into the sky, their fires visible, like some galaxy of
orange stars, into the far distance. Traditional rockets known
as Bok Fai outdo the myriad of other fireworks crackling and
popping everywhere in the crisp night air. And beneath this
frenzy of noise and light, the gentle, quiet, and touching act
of floating (loy) one's Krathong.
The traditional months of Lanna are different from the rest
in Thailand, and Loy Krathong is always celebrated in Duan Yee
- the second month - and the period of the festival is called
Yee Peng. It is an important time with Krathong and a
different Buddhist ceremony, called Tang Tham Luang, falling
within this month. The decorations around houses and temples
come alive during Yee Peng with the Kome paper lanterns
glowing a host of bright colours. Walls surrounding compounds
are decorated with the earthen lamps called Phang Patit. The
number of these lamps must correspond with the total age of
all family members combined, and their flickering yellow
flames give warmth to the cool evening.
The Krathong are traditionally made from cut sections of
bamboo, with neatly folded pieces of banana leaf around the
edge, giving the appearance of a lotus leaf. Each must be
decorated with a candle, an incense stick, and some flowers,
though many are more elaborate. Often some grains of sand and
good luck charms are placed on the Krathong, and a few coins
are often added; though these usually end up as some young
boy's extra pocket money. At home in the water, they swim from
Krathong to Krathong and a little brown hand gropes around for
what it may contain. These days the convenience and buoyancy
of Styrofoam have largely and, unfortunately, replaced
traditional materials, as they litter bank and shoreline for
weeks after the event. This year, 2019, the Loy Krathong
festival is from November 11 to 14. In Chiangmai, there are
raft races on the river on the first day, and boat races for
the next two days. The Yee Peng opening ceremony takes place
at Tha Pae Gate early on the first evening, followed by a
lantern parade and contest at the Night Bazaar. Beauty
contests will be held at Tha Pae Gate on the second and last
evenings, and parades of individual Krathongs and giant
Krathongs start from there on the second and third evenings.
Every night, there will be fireworks, Kome Loy launchings,
Lanna cultural performances at the Municipal Offices near the
river, and, of course, there is nowhere better to loy your own
Tradition has it that the very first Krathong was made by a
beautiful young lady at the royal court of the ancient Kingdom
of Sukhothai some 700 years ago. Her name was Naang Noppamart,
and she was blessed with great artistic skills. Others
imitated her and there was a competition on the night of the
11th full moon of the year. The king judged the competition.
Naang Noppamart's talents were repaid as her Krathong was
declared the clear winner. The king decreed that henceforth
this one night of the year should become a festival of thanks
and should be celebrated by the floating of boats in the shape
and form of lotus leaves. The legend lives on and the beauty
queen selected at each of the Loy Krathong celebrations around
Thailand is, to this day, the winner of the Naang Noppamart
Dating back to ancient days, the decorative ceremony of
lanterns was based on Brahmin beliefs, or Brahmanism. At this
ceremony, the people of long ago paid respect by worshipping
three different gods. These gods were Pra I-Suan, Pra Narai,
and Pra Prom. For this reverent ceremony, the candles used to
light up the lantern were made from cow's fat or a wax that
came from within the royal gates of the reigning monarch.
Usually these candles were made by a Brahmin priest, and of
course, the process of making the candles strictly followed
the requirements of a Brahmin ceremony.
Formerly, lantern decorations were commonly seen hanging on
all mansions in the grand palace. The great numbers and the
beauty of the lanterns reflected the status of the royal
family members. (Next to the king, the titles of royalty were
Jow Fah, Pra Ong Jow, Mom Jow, Mom Rajawong, and Mom Luang).
There were also three classifications of lanterns, which were
the Kome Chai, the Kome Pra-Tiab, and the Kome Boriwan.
Up until the present time, a tradition developed wherein
people sacrifice their time to design and assemble various
kinds of strong, beautiful, and creative lanterns. The
worshippers donated the lanterns to the temples, asking their
wishes to be fulfilled. Usually the person would say a prayer
requesting his desire to be a sharp, brighter, and more clever
person in the future. This belief is based on the comparison
that a bright light would lead a person out of his present
darkness into a lustrous future.
As mentioned earlier, these lanterns were devoted to the
three different gods. The lanterns were also presented to high
ranking officials and wealthy people. It is then interesting
to understand why Komes were so presentable and how these
lanterns are made. The main structure of these lanterns are
usually made with bamboo and covered with a coarse palm paper
or cloth. Inside, a bamboo cylinder was necessary to protect
the possible burning of the paper, since, altogether, 24
candles were required to light up the lantern. This large
number of candles made illumination possible for about three
hours. Candles were not always used to light these lanterns.
Oils, such as sesame seed, castor, or coconut oils, were also
used. The creation of these lanterns is open for the public to
see and study during this festival.
thought that lanterns could only be lit during Buddhist
holidays or ceremonies, but, actually, lanterns can be lit
every evening or night. These lanterns can be hung on gates,
fences, doors, windows, or the roof, or any place an
individual wants to adorn with these delightful creations.
There have been four different purposes for the northern Thais
to hang lanterns. They are for beauty, to pay respect to
Buddha images, to make one's home or mansion brighter, and for
Nowadays, there are four traditional Komes in the north that
attract visitors every year. They are 1) Kome Thuea (carrying
lantern) or Kome Gratai (a rabbit's ear), 2) Kome Kwaen
(hanging lantern), 3) Kome Paad (revolving lantern), and 4)
Kome Loy (hot air floating lantern).
A Kome Thuea or Kome Gratai has a lighted candle inside. A
Buddhist believer will carry it along during the Yee Peng
Parade. When the parade is over, the worshippers will take the
lanterns and decorate the temples, vihara, and other
buildings. If there are other celebrations other than the Yee
Peng Festival, beautifully made lanterns are used to decorate
a stage. Usually, a lantern shaped as a lotus is used to pay
respect and the citizens will pray to the Buddha images and
make offerings to the monks.
Kome Kwaen are also offered to pay respect, and prayers to
Buddha images are made. There are several shapes of this
certain lantern. They are the Baat Pra (Alms bowl), Dow
(Star), Ta Gra (Basket), and Tammajak (the wheel of law, which
means to have a thorough knowledge about religious
discourses). The Buddhists will hang these lanterns around a
temple, vihara, alms-house, sala, or house.
The Kome Paad is an interesting lantern since it revolves on
an axis. This is done with the aide of the heat from the
candle's smoke. In order to make it revolve, the candle is
placed inside the lantern where little gadgets take the energy
from the smoke and then revolves. The lantern is shaped like a
circle, almost like the earth. Usually there are pictures
glued on, such as the 12 characters of the horoscope. This
revolving lantern will give the effect of shadow puppets. Kome
Paad can only be seen during the Yee Peng Festival. It is
placed in the temple gates and is not allowed to be moved from
one place to another.
Launching Kome Loi Video. You have to see this.
Kome Loi being launched all at the same time.
The Kome Loy is a lantern that is similar to a
hot-air-balloon. It is also quite similar to that of a normal
lantern except it does not require 24 candles for
illumination. Because the air lantern must rise up to float in
the air, it must be lightweight; therefore, it does not have a
bamboo cylinder inside. In order to send the lantern into the
air, it requires a method to heat the air. This is done by
tying a small bowl underneath the open section of the lantern.
Oil is then placed into the bowl along with a cotton cloth. As
the oil catches fire and commences burning, the hot air
quickly travels into the lantern and it soon rises into the
It is believed that by sending off these lanterns an
individual can send one's sins and bad luck into the air.
Usually before the lantern soars into the sky, an individual
will pray that one's sin or bad luck will be transported on
the lantern and floated away high into the sky. Sometimes an
address is left inside. The purpose of this is when the
lantern come back down to the ground, and individual can
follow an address and seek for money from whoever wrote the
address. Or even sometimes, the maker will put some money
inside the lantern. The purpose of the hot air lantern is to
worship and pay respect to the Phra Ged Kaew Ju La Manee. An
old legend tells that during war, these lanterns were sent
into enemy territory and exploded.
Here is a video of us on the river in Chiang Mai for
the Loi Krathong Festival and in my neighborhood.
In Chiangmai, visitors will be treated to an air of
festivity in the weeks leading up to Loy Krathong. People
begin constructing their Krathong, a small raft to float down
the river as an offering. They are traditionally cut in a
circular slice from the trunk of a banana tree and decorated
with intricate leaf-patterns and flowers. A candle, incense
sticks and a few small coins are typically placed as
offerings. Archways of banana stems suddenly appear outside
homes and businesses, and hanging lanterns, or Kome, are hung
anywhere possible. With their beautiful colors and delicate
paper streamers, these lanterns glow with a warm charm in the
night, along with yellow flames of thousands of miniature
terra-cotta nightlights flickering on walls and gateposts in
While Kome are put up all over the city, hot-air balloons,
or Kome Loy, are set off into the sky during the festivities.
Be careful: there are also fireworks, and the locals often set
off their own with no rhyme or reason. And there's a lot of