It’s one of the lightest and brightest holidays in Thailand, and it only takes one look to see why.
On the last Thursday of this month, families in the United States traditionally gather around the table, observing the Thanksgiving holiday with generous helpings of festive food. However, this year, just as families settle in to eat together in the U.S., the 23rd day of November is just beginning in Thailand, and it’s similarly a very special day to celebrate. It’s the Yee Peng and Loy Krathong Festivals!
At first glance, it’s an Instagram-enticing event with several beautiful lanterns headed to the skies and elegant floats in the water. Another cool aspect is the food you’ll eat and the people you meet along the way. Who wouldn’t want to take a selfie during these festivals?
But first things, first. Let us explain the differences between the two festivals.
Loy Krathong and Yee Peng Festivals
Loy Krathong is celebrated annually on the 12th lunar month of the Thai year, which is mid-November on western calendars. The name “Loy Krathong” is understood to mean “floating basket” with its history rooted in Brahmin traditions. During this festival, thousands of decorated baskets typically made using banana leaf, flowers or bread, are lit with candles and released into the river.
The gesture of gratitude is given to the Goddess of water for an abundance of rice (following harvest season) and to also seek forgiveness for past wrongdoings. Releasing these floats into the water symbolizes the “letting go” of negative thoughts and grudges to make way for new beginnings.
Yee Peng (also written as Yi Peng), is a separate Thai holiday celebrated by the Lanna people of northern Thailand and runs parallel to Loy Krathong. Known as the “Lantern Festival,” this celebration is famed for the mesmerizing display of paper lanterns floating in the sky. Also, originating from Brahmanism within the Hindu religion, this festival is most strongly associated with ancient Lanna traditions.
How are these festivals celebrated?
Traditionally, krathongs are prepared at home with friends and family in the spirit of togetherness and community. Those taking part the occasion gather together around lakes, rivers, and canals throughout the Kingdom of Thailand to pay their respects.
The typical ritual involves kneeling by the water to pray, asking for forgiveness and making a wish before releasing the candlelit krathong into the water. It is believed that if the candle on your krathong stays lit as it floats into the distance, you will enjoy a year of good luck. If you’re heading to the waterside to release your own krathong, we’d like to wish you a sweet release of your grudges!
Loy Krathong. Image: Guy Tetreault / CC-BY-2.0 / Flickr
Many holidays in Thailand are alight with magic — it’s just easiest to see it in flow during Loy Krathong. The streets buzz with life through the evening, filled with celebratory activities, including beauty contests, dance performances and krathong-making workshops, giving travelers an open window to truly connect with locals on a deeper level. We encourage all visitors to participate in these festivals. Where else could you experience magic like this?
While it’s always possible to buy one of your own krathongs from the vibrant street vendors, learning how to create your own krathong is a fantastic way to enjoy the festive celebrations and make local friends. Creating your own is something you should do at least once.
You might have seen picturesque shots of thousands of lanterns lifting into the sky at some point, and you might not have known that they were probably snapped at one of many celebrations during the Yi Peng festival! The celebrations involve the lighting and releasing of large floating lanterns (called khom loy), into the sky. These lanterns are often made with rice paper and decorated with prayers and wishes before being released. The act of releasing the lantern symbolizes the important Buddhist practice of merit-making; pursuing good deeds to reap good rewards. Homes and gardens around northern Thailand are often decorated with smaller lanterns made from paper (called khom fai).
The atmosphere during these celebrations is extraordinarily peaceful, friendly and inclusive of all. Thai people are particularly welcoming to all newcomers to both festivals, making it a truly memorable time of year to visit Thailand.
Where to celebrate
Loy Krathong is observed nation-wide, and celebrations can last anywhere between one and five days, depending on the province.
The capital city of Bangkok, is one of the best places to enjoy Loy Krathong, with several lakes and riverside locations to choose from. Asiatique The Riverfront has been the prime spot for Loy Krathong over the past few years, drawing in large crowds. Other popular areas include Chao Phraya River, the temple of the golden mount – Wat Saket riverside, picturesque park and pier at Phra Athit and the lakeside at Lumpini Park. For those enjoying a hotel-stay in Bangkok, riverside hotels – Anantara, Shangri La and the Mandarin Oriental also host Loy Krathong events.
The historic town of Sukhothai, a UNESCO world heritage site in central Thailand, is often referred to as the birthplace of Loy Krathong. Here, celebrations span a total of five days to include contests, night markets and various events in addition to traditional Loy Krathong festivities. Light shows and authentic Thai song and dance performances are just some of the activities included in Sukhothai’s sensational interpretation of Loy Krathong.
The largest city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai offers a unique experience, as both Thai festivals – Loy Krathong and Yee Peng, combine to make one magnificent celebration. Each year, Chiang Mai hosts traditional Lanna dance, stunning floating parades and lively performances. The best areas to witness the blanket of lights both in the water and in the sky, is on one of Chiang Mai’s bridges overlooking the Ping River. Fireworks displays, glowing lanterns, and candlelit floats add to an immensely beautiful setting, where the light displays reflect off the waters.
If you’ve set your mind on visiting Thailand during the celebration of Loy Krathong, we’ve collected a few of our favorite options to find your stay during your time in Chiang Mai. Keep reading and discover your favorite!
If you’re looking to head north to send your own lantern flying high, the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai has a two-person package offering guests their own lantern crafting session and a guided tour into the heart of Chiang Mai to join celebrations with locals. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the heart of the provincial celebrations, this might be the one for you.
Alternatively, if you’d like to enjoy the festival with some privacy and luxury, 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai brings the festivities of Loy Krathong and Yi Peng almost directly to your hotel room’s doorstep. You can enjoy a hotel gala featuring its own Lanna-Style market and entertainment. Then, enjoy a cool end to the celebration with a tranquil dinner on the hotel lawn, topped off by releasing your own lanterns and krathongs at the end of the nights.
Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai Resort hosts an equally intimate event for guests, and it’s also a delicious one. The night here starts with the sights and sounds of entertainment provided by a private traditional parade and a bit before the air fills with lanterns, the air swirls with the delicious aromas of dishes served up by the Le Grand Lanna restaurant. You might have heard of dinner and a view, but you haven’t really experienced it until you’re celebrating Yi Peng and Loy Krathong!
As events vary by province, make sure to check out the list below to see when to be where for Loi Krathong!
- Chiang Mai Nov 20-23, 2018
- Sukhothai Nov 16-25, 2018
- Lampang Nov 21-23, 2018
- Ayutthaya Nov 22, 2018
- Samut Songkhram Nov 22-23, 2018
- Tak Nov 18-22, 2018
- Ratchaburi Nov 22-24, 2018
- Roi Et Nov 22, 2018
Don’t forget if you celebrate our traditions, share your photos on Instagram with the hashtag #ThailandInsider for us to share it with our fans.