Chiang Mai Loy Krathong Festival
Dates of the Loy Krathong Festival
Loi Krathong (ลอยกระทง) is a festival that is celebrated in Thailand, Laos and some other places in Southeast Asia that have a Thai or Tai heritage.
The Loy Krathong festival takes place on the evening of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. The dates of Loy Krathong change every year. This is always a source of confusion. Loy Krathong usually falls in the month of November.In Chiang Mai the festival is also known as Yi Peng or Yee Peng Festival. It last three days. The first day is the lantern festival, the second day is the full moon day and the third day is now the day of the Loy Krathong parade. Loy Krathong is not an official public holiday in Thailand. Most activities take place after dark. In 2020 the dates should be October 29, 30 and 31. See here for the, yet unconfirmed, program of 2020.
Over the years the release of sky lanterns (โคมลอย) has become the most popular activity of the Yee Peng (Yi Peng) or Loy Krathong Festival. Also about the release of the lanterns there is a lot of confusion. Some people also call the festival the “Sky Lantern Festival”….Nowadays the release of sky lanterns is only allowed on the 2nd and 3rd days of the festival between 1900 and 0100 (one hour after midnight). In 2020 this will probably be on October 30 and 31. The vicinity of the Ping River between the Nakornping Bridge and the Iron Bridge is the best place to be to release and observe sky lanterns. This is free of charge.
There a couple of organised sky lantern releases. These are not free but they are worth visiting.
The mass release of Sky Lanterns at Mae Jo University, which was a spectacular and free event, is not organised anymore. It has not been held already for a number of years.
History of Loy Krathong
The history of the Loy Krathong Festival is rather obscure. Some people claim that the tradition of Loy Krathong originates in Sukhothai and was first organized by a court lady called Nopphamat. Others believe it was a Brahmanic festival that was adapted by Thai buddhist to honor the Buddha. Anyway, the ritual of Loy Krathong is about paying respect to the Goddess of the Water showing gratitude for the plentiful use of water and ask for forgiveness in the ensuing pollution. It is also about getting ride of misfortune and bad things that happened in the past and asking for good luck in the future. For this people float a “krathong” in the river.
The meaning of Loy Krathong
What does Loy Krathong mean? The verb Loy (ลอย) means to float. Krathong has various meanings. In this case it is small container or basket made of banana leaves, adorned with flowers, incense and candles. Loy Krathong means “to float a basket” which is what many people do during the festival on one of the three days. On many river or canal locations makeshift bamboo construction or steps are constructed to allow people to approach the water. Near these places food and drink sellers gather and local people sell their housemade krathongs to revellers. Each year the Loi Krathong Festival features activities at various venues throughout Chiang Mai such as boat races on the Mae Ping River, a lantern procession and contest, a beauty contest, and Krathong parades and contests.
In North Thailand the Loy Krathong Festival coindices with the Lanna festival called Yee Peng or Yi Peng. That makes experiencing the festival in Chiang Mai extra special. Yee Peng is all about lanterns. The day before Loy Krathong is called Yee Peng but during the three days you will find lanterns everywhere. Houses and temples are decorated with lanterns and on the evening of the first day there is a stunning lantern parade in Chiang Mai. The most stunning though used to be the hundreds of sky lanterns that were released. There used to be a mass release of sky lanterns near Mae Jo University. In recent years there has been a crackdown on releasing sky lanterns because of the danger to air traffic. There is no mass release anymore. Releasing sky lanterns is only allowed during set hours on the full moon night. This law is strictly enforced. There are a couple of commercial small scale sky lantern events that include a dinner. Please check with us.
Loy Krathong Tours
We have a couple of Loy Krathong tours on our website such as the Loy Krathong Classic tour that features not only the Loy Krathong festivities but also sights such as Wat Doi Suthep and Lamphun. You will also make a relaxing ride with a traditional bicycle taxi (samlor). We also offer a Loy Krathong tour that takes you from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. All these tours can be customized of course.