Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Mae Jo, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Yi Peng Festival
Every year in Northern Thailand, the locals celebrate the festival of Yi Peng by sending floating lanterns into the night sky. This festival takes place on the full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar ("Yi" meaning "2nd" and "Peng" meaning "month" in the Lanna language). This festival is often confused with Loy Krathong, which is held on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai calendar, which often results in the festivals coinciding. The Loy Krathong Festival also includes the use of lanterns, however the main focus is on the floating Krathong, that is released into the lakes, rivers and waterways. While Loy Krathong is celebrated in all of Thailand's provinces, the Yi Peng Festival is only celebrated in the North.
This festival takes place just outside the city of Chiang Mai, in the nearby university district of "Mae Jo". The people gather at the Lanna Dhutanka temple, which is roughly a 30 minute drive from downtown Chiang Mai. Outside the temple grounds there are a variety of vendors selling food and drink, as well as lanterns and fireworks, which are not permitted inside the temple grounds. The event organizers offer lanterns for sale at a higher rate, for those who wish to participate in the celebration. The ceremonies begin with the monks arranged on a stage in front of the crowd, chanting and engaging in a moment of prayer, followed by a procession of monks and followers that march around the temple grounds several times. After all the preparations have been completed, the crowd is instructed to light the lanterns and release them simultaneously.
The lanterns are made of a thin outer layer of rice paper, with a fuel source of waxy material in the bottom center. When lit, the lantern slowly begins to expand with hot air, eventually causing it to rise, as the heat forces the lantern up into the sky. The original design comes from the ancient Chinese, who had used these as weapons of war many years ago. This ingenious design allows for cheap construction, resulting in the lanterns being sold for less than a dollar each.
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