October 11, 2015
Yi Peng Northern Thailand’s Loy Krathong 2016
When: 13th-15th November 2016: Yi Peng day 14th November
Where: Parts of Northern Thailand – Mainly Chiang Mai
Yi Peng (Yee Peng local name or the Duenyi Festival) is part of the festival of lights in the North of Thailand. It is an ancient Lanna festival originating from the time of the 14th Century in the Haripunchai Kingdom.
There is quite a bit of confusion about the festivities, it should be noted that this event is not the traditional Loy Krathong (Loi Krathong), but it does have a number of similarities. Nor is it associated with the release of sky lanterns at Mae Jo. It is in fact a festival unique to northern Thailand and with the ancient Lanna Kingdom.
Loy Krathong and Yi Peng
The festival of Yi Peng is a celebration in its own right, as an event to recognise the end of the rainy season and the end of Buddhist Lent. It is believed the event would have corresponded to the Buddhist Wan ok phansa Festival, that is celebrated normally in October, much later the Yi Peng Festival date was changed, to co-inside with the Loy Krathong event. (While November is the second month of the Lanna lunar calendar, Loy Krathong falls on the full moon of the 12 month of the Thai lunar calendar; Yi Peng translated from Lanna, means “2nd Month”)
Yi Peng Festivals take place at various locations around northern Thailand, but it is in Chaing Mai, the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom, where this ancient festival is at its grandest.
The celebrations unlike Loy Krathong are spread over 3 days and involves the local people lighting candles in clay holders Phang Prathip (or Phang Prathit), along with making numerous lanterns to decorate their homes, carry in parades and to give to their temples. (They are given to pay homage to the five Buddhas). Also during the 3 days of Yi Peng; there is a mass launching of sky lanterns as well as fireworks, setting adrift lighted rafts, making merit and listening to the great sermons of Maha Chat, (Vessantara Jataka sermon)…….all in all three hectic days, filled with sound, gun-powder smoke, laughter and humility.
Donating Lanterns to Temples
In Buddhist culture, by donating lanterns to temples it is believed the giver achieves one of the three bases of merit. It is also believed the light from a lantern represents the moving away from darkness into a brighter future and that the launching of sky lanterns and rafts is a way to dispel bad luck. Some people attach to their sky lanterns snippets of their fingernail and hair. (This is similar to the floating Kratong in the festival of Loy Krathong) Some will go further and attach a letter along with money as a prize for whoever finds their sky lantern.
There are many different Yi Peng lanterns and this is again different to the festival of Loy Krathong
- Khom Fai(Thai:โคมไฟ): intricately shaped paper lanterns which take on different forms. During Yi Peng it was traditional that only monks would release lanterns, but now anybody can have a go (there are areas where this prohibited e.g. airports). On Yi Peng Day (Loy Krathong Day) novice monks at some of the temples will release giant sky lanterns some of which will have firecrackers attached to them.
- Khom three(Thai:โคมถือ) are lanterns which are carried around hanging from a stick, also known sometimes as Khom gratai (because they look as though they have rabbit’s ears)
- khan(Thai:โคมแขวน) are the hanging lanterns
- Khom pariah(Thai:โคมปริวรรต) which are placed at temples and which revolve due to the heat of the candle inside.
Prior to the start of the Yi Peng festival, temples make home-made rockets to pay respect to the Buddha and to mark the Grand Sermon of Maha Chat. Lanna rockets (bokfai) come in a variety of styles. Rockets are let loose from dusk onward and so there is always a steady continuous noise from fireworks especially firecrackers announcing the Yi Peng Festival, all of which adds to a noisy fun filled day.
This is another ancient activity held during the Yi Peng Festival. There is an old Lanna saying: “Anyone who is not successful with saving up and multiplying his wealth, should make this Dhamma Chata, which can make him prosper”
To do this people will inscribe the Dhamma in Lanna characters (tua tham) onto a set of palm leaves. Later the inscription is rubbed with black powder or soot scraped from the bottoms of cooking pots so to make the inscription clearer. The leaves are then stacked up together and secured with a cotton string (sai yang). At the approach of the Buddhist Lent or Yi Peng Festival, the wrapped scriptures are given to a temple where they will stay, in the hope that the act would result in prosperity and enhancing one’s fate and wisdom.
The similarity with Loy Krathong is further emphasized in the fact that on the night of Yi Peng the people prepare floating rafts ‘Long sapao’ or ‘Loi samphao fai’ to which they add traditional offerings of flowers, incense and lit candles, the rafts are then set adrift on streams, lakes and rivers.
The glittering reflection of lights on the water looks like the illumination of a jungle spirit at night hunting (called “phi khamot”). For this reason, the people call the act of floating the containers “loi phi khamot”. (See more about Thailand spirits)
In the Loy Krathong festival the floats are called Krathong and are made traditionally from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant and are decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, incense sticks, and a candle. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the water spirits along with a few strands of their hair and or finger nail clippings.
Yi Peng The Lanna Festival of Light 2016
For those lucky enough to attend these two festivals in one, while the noise from the fireworks can assault your ears, you are rewarded with the sight of the many colourful parades, fireworks, lanterns and shows that are happening almost every-where in the city, along with the smell from the thousands of stalls selling traditional Lanna food.
To top it all being able to participate in the launch of thousands of floating lanterns both on the water and in the night sky makes a brilliant and heart-warming spectacle and something not to be missed.
And so there you have it, two totally separate festivals Yi Peng and Loy Krathong, both celebrated on the same day each year but using two different calendars and with a number of crucial differences
A big thanks for the information and pictures supplied from a site called Lanna Tradition see below for more
Another big thumbs up to Mithun Divakaran for the use of the first picture here
For more on the difference between the three festivals mentioned here see my posts
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